The Path to Finding the Perfect Mentor and Mentoring Relationship
1. Set Goals for Yourself
First things first. You need a goal. If you don’t know what you want, it’s very difficult to get help from others. This doesn’t mean that you need to have the next 10 or 20 years of your life all mapped out, but it does mean that you should at least know what kinds of questions you should be asking yourself.
Goal setting can happen at different times and in different ways
Creating a goal can occur as part of investigation into a study or career path.
Maybe you don’t know what you wanna be when you grow up. That’s ok. I’m over 30 and am constantly reevaluating the things I am doing in my life. But what I do know is that right now I am really interested in endangered amphibians in Bermuda. To see if this is really something I’d like to spend the foreseeable future studying, or working in, I should probably investigate further.
So my goal becomes: to decide, by a given time, whether or not I’d like to pursue endangered skink studies on a small archipelago in the middle of nowhere.
Or maybe, you already know what you want to do, but you’re not too sure how to get there. It’s like walking towards a castle and then finding out that there’s a moat. The goal is in sight, and the prince is waiting for you in the tower (yes, cause princes can get locked away too!) and you’re pacing back and forth scratching your head. You need to learn how to swim, or you need to borrow a boat. Either way, you’re going to need some help.
2. Ask Around, and Look People Up
The best thing to do is to use your networks. Your friends, family and colleagues are all part of your network, and if you are able to communicate your goals to them, while they may not be able to solve your problems, if they are supportive, they might be able to point you to someone who can help you out.
The most important thing is to stay on track and know what you want, even if all you want is to figure out what you want. Maybe your personal network is a little stale. That’s ok, because online networks exist that are dedicated to linking people together. If you use the appropriate channels, help will happen. Be creative and seek people out.
While it may feel like you have to prepare yourself for the rejection of a door-to-door salesperson, you will be surprised how receptive people will be. Being asked for help is flattering, and more often than not, people are willing to help.
3. Know what questions you’d like to ask
There’s nothing worse than begging for someone’s time and then wasting it. Make sure that you prepare a list of questions in advance. It’s not just for the potential mentor; it will also help you get your thoughts in order. By writing some of your questions down, you might actually find an answer on your own.
A word of advice about questions: if you can find the answer on the internet, don’t ask it. I know they say that there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but I’m here to tell you that there is. Mentors are people, not a search engine. If you want to learn how to knit, go to Wikihow or Youtube.
If you want to learn about particular techniques, grandma’s special tricks of the trade, anecdotal history, knitting culture etc., these are things you can ask a mentor.
Catch my drift? Mentors like to see motivation and drive. These things are easy to have as long as you know your goals. If a mentor can see herself as part of your path, then she is likely to be more receptive than if you are treating her like an information container.
4. Appreciate any time that is given
Sometimes all you need from a Mentor is 30 minutes. Other mentors, like Mr. Miagi and Yoda, will stay with you forever. Truth is, we never know how long a mentor will be with us, and whether that person will pop back into our life. So, be grateful, be thankful and be humble.
5. Open your ears and mind
Before meeting a mentor, keep in mind that this is a person who has offered to help you in some way. Repeat: a person, not a tool. Got it? It’s easy to lose sight of others when we’re wound up with all the things that we are trying to accomplish.
Keep your ears and mind open, and hear what this individual has to say. Then internalize it. It’s up to you whether or not you’d like to accept the information, but always respectfully acknowledge its receipt.
6. Found one mentor? Find more!
You don’t have to be monogamous with your mentors. In fact, different people can bring different perspectives to you, which can help in your decision-making. Absorb as much as possible so that you can make the most informed decision possible. You may even ask your mentor to set you up with other mentors.
7. Offer help to your mentor and keep in touch
Everyone likes a win-win situation. Maybe there’s something you can do for your mentor. Maybe not, but there is certainly no harm in asking. And keep in touch with your mentors even if you don’t need something at that particular moment. This is part of treating a mentor like a person and not a tool. It helps to establish a positive rapport that could help you out in the future. Keeping in touch could happen once a week to once a year, depending on the nature of the relationship.
And that’s how it’s done!