I bet you’ve heard about the importance of mentorship for career advancement, especially for women. But, you might be asking yourself how to actually find a mentor. I get it, it can be awkward to just ask someone to be your mentor out of the blue. In an ideal world, mentoring relationships would be developed organically and easily. However, in the real world, especially for a woman in a male-dominated industry, this is not always the case.
It’s human nature for people to “see themselves” in others and have a natural desire to mentor them. This becomes an issue when power structures are disproportionately white and male; those men will naturally want to elevate other men who remind them of their younger selves. I say all of this to say, as a woman, you may have to work harder to find a mentor than your male counterparts, who seem to find mentorship with no effort at all. And while this reality might be frustrating, let’s focus our energy on how to be proactive in our search for mentorship.
Here are my top 5 tips for finding a mentor:
LOOK FOR A COMPANY-SPONSORED PROGRAM
As it’s becoming more popular for companies to sponsor formal mentorship programs, my first tip is to find out if your company already has one in place. If you find that your company does have a formal program, I’d encourage you to join!
ASK YOUR BOSS OR COLLEAGUES FOR RECOMMENDATIONS
I know I just said it’s awkward to ask for mentorship out of the blue, but hear me out. Think of someone at your organization who is already vested in your success. This might be your boss, a colleague, or someone from the human resource department. If they’re truly vested in your success, they’ll understand your desire for mentorship and they’ll be more likely to leverage their connections and network to help you find a good mentor. If you choose to ask your boss for help, you’ll have the added benefit of expressing that you’re invested in your growth with the company.
FIND A FORMAL NETWORK OUTSIDE OF YOUR COMPANY
If your company doesn’t have a formal mentorship program, but you’d still prefer a formal setting, there are several options available. Your city may have a program. For example, in Charlotte there’s a program called the Pink Mentor Network. You could also join a LeanIn Circle or join a Cru.
GO ON BLIND (COFFEE) DATES
Finding a mentor can be similar to dating. You need to actually spend time with the person to see if there’s an organic connection. One way to do this is by getting coffee. Asking to grab coffee is a good way to connect with someone without having to explicitly state that you’re looking for a mentor. You can say you’re just looking to connect with women at the organization or learn more about their role and line of business.
I’d suggest doing this as often as you can, even after you’ve found a mentor, to expand your network at the organization. If coffee goes well, you can ask to meet again for lunch or drinks. Hopefully your relationship will develop naturally after a few meetings. Lastly, make sure to always prepare for these meetups, even if they’re casual, to show respect for their time. And don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t always go well. Not everyone will click, but that’s ok! That’s the beauty of coffee, it’s low pressure.
START YOUR OWN MENTORSHIP PROGRAM
If your company does not have a mentorship program, you could start your own! I helped start a mentorship program in a previous job and the experience was challenging but super rewarding. You can read about my experience and a step-by-step plan for creating your own program, here.
I hope you found these tips helpful. I know finding a mentor can be hard, but it can also be critical for your career success. And while it might look easier for your male counterparts, don’t be afraid of being proactive! Please also remember that you can have multiple mentors. And once you do find a mentor, make sure you check out 50 questions to ask your mentor.