Finding a mentor and how one can help
You might think finding a mentor is a difficult task. Surely mentors are business types, senior people, with little time on their hands to help others? Aren’t they reserved for people in high-potential talent pools or who are already successful? Well, we think not!
What does a mentor do?
A mentor is someone who is willing to share their time, knowledge or experience with you, on a topic you are interested in. So, if you happen to be a young entrepreneur offering advice to people in a similar space to you, then that’s a great form of mentoring!
What constitutes mentoring?
Informal mentoring can take many forms. Just consider some of the following:
- You listen to a Podcast by someone you admire and want to emulate and start to mull over their recommendations
- You read an autobiography or a piece of research (even a magazine article) and take action based on the advice you have absorbed
- You find yourself talking to someone in your family or friendship circle, who offers you advice on your situation. You trust them and take heed of their wisdom.
- Perhaps you watch someone from afar on TV, at work, or through social media. You admire their approach and try and copy what they do
Informal mentoring is generally very useful. You might not even consider it as mentoring, more an enjoyable past-time or form of self-care!
Sometimes if you formalise your request for advice, or another person is willing to speak to you about their experiences on more than one occasion, this type mentoring might be considered more formal. Your mentor may or may not have been trained to act as mentor – the key is that they are willing to consider your needs and share what they have learned as a way of helping you develop. If they’re smart, they will also see the opportunity as a development experience for themselves – helping them learn something new from you and perhaps about go deeper into their own thoughts and feelings.
How is coaching different?
Coaching is often considered as a non-advised support mechanism – meaning your coach will only ask you reflective, searching questions about you and your situation, leaving you to work out the answers. Mentors may also use this approach but in mentoring it’s more accepted practice to offer practical advice or insight that might be relevant to you. A good mentor will probably quiz you about what they think you should do; however, they may also make suggestions about a possible course of action. Coaching and mentoring are useful development opportunities for a whole heap of reasons.
- You want to understand how to tackle a problem that you’re finding difficult to navigate.
- You want to develop or grow your skill or knowledge of a topic.
- You want to your build confidence by practising something in a safe environment.
- You’d like feedback on how you come across.
- You’d like a sounding board to test out your ideas.
How do I find a mentor?
Once you know what kind of support you need you can start to look to where you might find mentoring support. For example, is there someone at work you admire who is skilled in something you want to know more about? Is there a family member or relative who has experience or knowledge you’re interested in? Is there someone in your wider network who would be willing to spare some time to share their experience of a particular situation? Alternatively, you can watch can learn from afar – scrutinizing how someone else goes about the same challenge you are facing.
Whatever and whomever you choose, learning with and through others is an important part of self-discovery and development. Now all you need to do, is ask politely!
For more information on how mentoring can help you, read Notebook Mentor’s Blog How mentoring can benefit personal development.