To succeed in most careers, one needs both to master networking and align oneself with mentors and confidants. While achieving the former has been discussed time and time again in this space, not enough attention is paid to the importance of mentoring. Climbing social ladders requires taking the hands of magnanimous folks above you and receiving a helpful lift. But how do you convince potential mentors to take time out of their lives to help you out?
Kathy Caprino at Forbes has a few ideas:
“First, it’s critical to know that, to find great mentors, you don’t want to reach out to strangers. That’s not how you’ll find them.”
While it seems like common sense to not waste time penning letters to Bill and Melinda Gates, many aspiring mentees don’t realize that finding a mentor mostly means attracting a mentor. This is not something you get through cold calling. Caprino quotes Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg:
“If someone has to ask the question, the answer is probably no. When someone finds the right mentor, it is obvious. The question becomes a statement. Chasing or forcing that connection rarely works.”
In order to attract mentors, you need to inspire successful people you already know. Demonstrate your worth and ambition. Show them you’re someone in whom they should invest time and effort.
If you’re not already on those folks’ radar, Caprino offers a few suggestions to fix that:
“Give, and give more. Tweet out their posts, comment in a positive way on their blogs, share their updates, start a discussion on LinkedIn drawing on their post, refer new clients or business to them, and the list goes on.”
You definitely don’t want to come across as sycophantic, but you do need to butter them up a little bit. Again, your prospective mentor likely has plenty of candidates for his or her time. Find what appeals to them — hard work, stroking the ego, etc. — and employ strategies to get their attention.
Finally (and to echo some points from earlier), Caprino says that to obtain mentorship you have to demonstrate your reliability as a potential mentee. This means you should strive to be a good citizen within your office and industry. Hone your expertise and establish a reputation for success and professionalism. No one’s going to want to mentor a lost little puppy dog or a fixer-upper. No one’s going to treat you like Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman. Instead, you have to lay the necessary roots for a mentor relationship before you can take the step big step.
Read more at Forbes
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