As I look back over my business career, I would not have accomplished anywhere close to what I have had not been for several key mentors. The first was Roger Strickland, a professor at Santa Fe College, who helped me understand how to be successful in the classroom and has since become one of my closest friends. The next was Charlie Owen, my mentor when I was a young CEO running one of the Rockefeller foundation, who helped me understand how to succeed in business. I cannot possibly overstate the impact these two gentlemen had on my life and the lesson they taught me about the importance of having a mentor and being a mentor to others.
How to find a mentor?
The first step is to decide what you want to learn and what skills and information you seek from your mentor. Once you have clearly identified that, go out in your network and look at the people you admire who have these skill sets. If you can’t find someone you know, ask all your contacts and colleagues if they know anyone who could help you sharpen your skills in the area of your focus. Once you find someone you believe would be a great mentor, it is critical to be fully prepared when approaching them.
- What specifically would you like them to help you with?
- How often would you like to meet?
- Do you want to meet in person, virtually, or a mix of the two?
- How long do you intend for the mentorship to be, six months, a year, no specific end date?
- And very important, what can you give to your mentor? How can you help them? What can you contribute that would be of value to the person you’re asking to mentor you?
Now, when you ask them to be your mentor, you can show them you have a clear focus on what you want to learn, and you have a desire to help and assist them in any way you are able. Once all of this is in place, you are ready to approach the person you want to work with and ask them if they be would be willing to mentor you. Not everyone will accept your request. It has been my experience that most successful people understand how valuable mentors were to them and are happy to assist someone respectful and well-prepared.
How to be a great mentee?
The number one most important thing to remember as a mentee is never to waste your mentor’s time. Show up for every meeting fully prepared, with a list of questions you want to bring up. If your mentor assigns you reading or some homework, make sure you do it. When a mentor gives you advice about handling an issue, take the advice and let them know how it worked out. If you decide that their advice is not appropriate for you, let them know why you chose not to follow their advice. Lastly, find out what is of interest to your mentor. What they are trying to learn and what skills they are focused on gaining. Then do everything you can to find information, ideas, and contacts to assist them in their area of interest.
Typically, mentorships last six months to a year, but some may stretch on for several years or a lifetime. If you have a narrow area of focus you want to work with your mentor on, then it makes sense that once you feel like you’ve gathered as much information on that topic from your mentor, you look to find a new mentor in a different area where you want some help and advice. However, 33 years later, I still look to Roger Strickland as not just a friend but one of my most valued mentors who helps me navigate my life and career.
Finally, as you work with your various mentors and grow in your knowledge and skills, I believe it is good to pay it forward and find people you can help as a strong and supportive mentor. I also find that serving as a mentor has helped me be a much better mentee. Let’s face it. No one can be truly successful without help. The world moves too fast, and there is too much information and change to keep up all by yourself. I believe that seeking out and studying under several caring mentors is vital to achieving great things in your career and life.
If you want to get in contact with me, I’d love to hear from you. Please visit my site at https://johnspence.com/contact/ and let me know how I can help.