In her book “Lean in,” Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, discusses the mistake many women make in seeking a mentor by asking “will you be my mentor?” This question, she opines, can be a turn-off. A mentorship relationship is not something that should be forced. I tend to agree.
There is a lot of established evidence which shows that a mentor or a sponsor can really help women and minorities get ahead in the workplace. But how does one go about finding a mentor or sponsor?
Here are some tips based on my own experiences:
1. Everyone is your mentor.
There is something you can learn from everyone you’ve ever worked with. If they are younger, older, less-experienced, etc. – it does not matter. Sometimes the person might be an example of what not to do, but that is still important for you to learn! It’s important to establish a good rapport with those around you because you never know who they might know that could help you.
2. Bring something to the table.
You can’t just get a mentor and then sit back and wait for the magic to happen. You have to be consistently showing your mentors what you are capable of and even how you can help them. I recently read about the symbiotic relationship between a top-level executive and a young analyst at a major corporation. The top-level executive helped guide the young analyst about corporate culture and steps she could take to advance her career within the company. In return the young analyst helped the executive by training her on how to use social media such as Instagram and Twitter.
3. Keep in touch.
Too often, we meet people, have a lunch or two, and never hear from them again. This is a mistake. You want to make sure you are on the forefront of your mentor’s mind. Put reminders in your calendar to check-in with your mentors every few months. When you see a news article that you think might interest your mentor, email it to them. Something as simple as a quick email is enough, but you have to take the effort to keep the relationship going.
If you look to everyone as a possible mentor, and actively try to help those around you, you will find that a natural relationship will form and those around you will want to help you back. Just please don’t ask the question, “Will you be my mentor?”