Even before I jump in, do you believe in the concept of mentoring?
You are either someone who already has a mentor and in that case, if that mentor(s) is the right one, you must be thriving already, if not you are in the right direction and you will soon reach what you consider an end goal.
If you are someone who does not have a mentor, because you feel you do not need one, please do not proceed reading! But, If you are someone who feels the need to have a mentor but finding it very hard to come around finding and figuring a mentor, I am sure I have a little something to offer you in this article.
P.S: All of the views listed here are my personal opinion, lessons, and experiences.
For the longest part of my life, I believed and still believe I need to be guided. It doesn't mean I am not a self-starter or I have self-doubts or seek validation, but I like to bounce off my ideas with few close allies who mean well for me and who can objectively make me see things in the larger picture that I fail to see by myself, and in the core of it, these are the two main traits of a mentor.
Who is a mentor and why do we seek them?
There are few things in life where we cannot seek advice from our family or friends because they wouldn't have walked out the path, they wouldn't know what we are going through or might offer us with few unconscious biases that they hold against us. These people often motivate us to make emotional decisions, which isn’t incorrect but severely misplaced if you are seeking something objectively.
We cannot ask our peers at work or managers because we might not want to trust them fully with what we say and truth to be told, not everyone wishes well for you! :) take it with a pinch of salt.
And the day is saved by, the knight in shining “mentors”.
These are exact words by one of my mentors: “Build rapport/relationships. Earn trust/respect. Do your work properly and always do the right thing. That’s what matters in the long run. Metrics do not” and surprisingly, that is what Sheryl Sandberg quotes in her book Lean In too. For a mentor to pick you, show it in your work and sincerely give them all the right reasons to pick you up for mentoring. Also, in hindsight one point I reflect a lot these days, You needn’t have to do weekly catchup with your mentors or think a mentor is the one who you can talk to half an hour every week. A lot of what a mentor would say wouldn’t be direct answers.
Few points to consider before approaching a mentor.
Leave your emotions at the bay
A mentor is not a therapist to help you make sense of the emotions you go through. At least initially have objective goals, KPIs, Ideas you would like to discuss with them.
Remember, they are not your friend:
This is self-explanatory, Although your relationship might have the potential to evolve into a closer bond, approaching a mentor with a mindset to befriend them is often detrimental.
They will always be there for you, no matter what
I once rang my professor who was my first formal mentor at university three years after I graduated to bounce off some major life decisions I just took and wanted his help to weigh the pros and cons. In the meantime, three long years after I graduated from university I never messaged him even once during the entire time. But when I wanted to seek his advice he was right there and never questioned about not bothering to keep in touch with him even once. Such mentors have truly shaped me to become who I am today. I am forever grateful to have them.
They only empower you to make the decision and not take decisions for you.
In the latter, there is a 100% probability you have chosen a wrong mentor and run away from them ASAP! Also, your mentor needn't have walked the path you are walking or would have had almost all similar life experiences as you.
You do not always have to listen to your mentor
A good mentor will never feel hurt or have misplaced trust for not listening to them. But they will stand right there watch you take your decision and live with it ( for the better or worst). In the hindsight, All my mentors were always right about particular decisions but never rub it off on me when I took the exact opposite decision only to realize what a grave mistake it was.
Myth busted: You do not need to have one mentor all your life
and that is completely okay. Meeting new potential mentors as you grow up both personally and professionally will only expand your perception and provide a way to analyze the situation more effectively.
Give back what you have received
It always not easy to be on the receiving end but when it comes to being a mentee one of the simplest thing you can do is just be on the receiving end. Internalize and make rational decisions. When you finally feel you are a place in your life where you can share what you have received do not hesitate to share your learnings! Together we learn.
Additional sources of inspiration:
These are some of the blogs or articles that I have read over the past and has made absolute sense to me and has so many key takeaways.
Choosing a mentor is not a stressful process. Find the one who will push you out of your comfort zone, is an active listener, make you a better human by teaching the right morals, and takes interest in your professional and personal growth.