Make it easy

How to approach a mentor if you’re a woman working with men

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In most workplaces, men usually hold more positions of power. So approaching a MAN to be a mentor is a really good idea if you work in a male-dominated field. 

So I’ve got three tips for ‘how to approach a mentor’ if he happens to be a man. This is exactly what I’ve been sharing with clients for 15 years, and I could happily tell you about a dozens of women whose male mentors have gone on to help them to advance their careers. 

1.  Point out the similarities between you: 

Let’s be clear, you’re not picking any old Tom, Dick or Harry to mentor you, you must have commonalities. These may be personal, like being from the same country of origin or the fact you’re both parents. One banking client I worked with chose a mentor because they both had young boys with severe autism, something that is very present for a parent, but not something everyone can relate to. Talking about their sons gave them an early bond when they were first building the relationship. However, what you have in common may be more likely be work-related, like clients in common, or a similar career path. Whatever it is, finding a commonality before you approach a mentor will make them more likely to give you help, when you explain why you’ve approached them specifically 

2. Offer breakfast, rather than lunch or dinner. 

Some guys are conveniently playing the American VP, Mike Pence, and opting not to spend time with any women one to one. If you potentially have someone like this in your sight, make it as easy as possible for them to say yes.  Ask them for a breakfast meeting, not lunch or dinner – anything that they fear could be misconstrued.  Plus, breakfast gives you both a time limit since you both have places to be, and it’s the easiest of meals to avoid alcohol. 

3. Give him an end date. 

Sometimes people recoil from being asked to be a mentor, as if you’re asking to be connected forever. They need to relax: it’s mentoring, not marriage.
While most of the mentoring relationships I’ve facilitated in the corporates I’ve worked with actually go on far longer than the official length of the programme, it’s good to give everyone a get out date. Just tie it to a specific challenge you’re having, like:

I’d love to be able to pick your brain now and again while… ‘I’m onboarding in this new role’,  or ‘while I’m delivering this project for a former client of yours’ or ‘while I’m building this new team’.  Most mentors will be happy to continue, but an end date gives everyone a sense, they’re not giving away their first born child, simply by saying yes.

If this has helped you feel more equipped when asking someone to be your mentor,  tweet about this blog:

Good luck in your quest to find that perfect mentor – I’m sure it will pay dividends to your career! 

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