Optimize Your Life

Episode #25: Do You Need A Mentor?

Show Notes:

Hey hey – welcome back to the podcast. How’s it going, guys? Are you starting to implement some of the things we’re talking about? If so, I’d love to hear from you. And as always, to make sure you stay on top of upcoming episodes, be sure to subscribe to the show. 

Today, we will cover everything mentoring: what mentoring is, when to make use of mentoring, how mentoring differs from coaching, and finally – how to go about finding a mentor. I’m certain that by the time you finish listening to this, you’ll start formulating your own ideas about mentoring and how it can help you in your career. 

Let’s start by looking at what mentoring is, so we’re on the same page. According to the Association for Talent Development, “Mentoring is a reciprocal and collaborative at-will relationship that most often occurs between a senior and junior employee for the purpose of the mentee’s growth, learning, and career development.”

That said, there are actually two types of mentoring: formal and informal. Most of the time, mentors are people in your organization who are more senior than you and they are mentoring you on behalf of the organization to get you caught up or better integrated in the company. THey might help you focus on the company goals or culture. Typically when you work with a mentor outside the organization, the focus will be more on your career goals and professional development.

If the relationship is a formal one, as in the case of a manager at the company for which you work, you will likely have set goals that are measurable. Each time you meet, you will go over your progress and ensure you are being held accountable.

In informal settings, mentoring can be more focused on best practices, on establishing better work-life balance, or on advice for enhancement. 

If you work for an organization that has a mentoring program, they will often approach you, but if they don’t, it will likely be as simple as stating that you’re interested in mentoring and finding someone who is available and is aligned with your needs. When you are looking outside your organization for a mentor, the important thing to keep in mind is finding someone whose experience is relevant to the future of your career. 

And the best way to find someone outside of your current place of work is to scope out people you admire whose career you perhaps want to emanate. Follow them online and really get to know their work. Then when you approach them, you’ll be prepared to share your vision with them. Let them know what you’re up to, what your vision is for your career, and how you admire them for their accomplishments. This is where you show them that you’re serious. Tell them what you know about them that led you to make the connection. 

Remember, often the people we want mentorship from are busy people. They don’t necessarily offer mentoring freely. So it’s your job to convince them that you are worth investing in. If they’ve written a book, read it and let them know you read it.

It would be smart to create a list of their accomplishments and note how they align with your vision before you get on the phone. This way, you will be really clear and organized and can speak about what you know. 

As they say, people love to talk about themselves, but they also love it when you stroke their ego, so letting them know you are impressed with them will go far. 

Then you ask if they would consider mentoring you. And you’ll be surprised. More often than not, even very successful people will be open to this if they like you and feel like working with you would be a way for them to pay it forward. You just have to ask. 

Entrepreneurs can often find mentors more easily as there are set organizations that focus on mentorship for business owners. One example of such an organization in the States is the Small Business Administration’s SCORE Mentoring program. Not only do they provide business owners with a list of qualified potential mentors to choose from, but the service is free. I will put the link in the show notes. 

And that leads me into the difference between mentorship and coaching. By now, you already know what mentoring focuses on, but let’s contrast that with coaching.

When you hire a business coach, for example, you are focusing on increasing your performance at your current job. Mentoring would be focused more on your future career development. Coaches typically focus on mindsets and helping you in a wide variety of areas whereas mentoring can be very specifically targeted. 

Imagine you want to open up a bagel business. You have no prior experience in the food industry. You might be able to find someone to coach you in broad strokes about what to do to be a successful business owner – things like establishing your niche, marketing, etc. But a mentor would be someone who perhaps previously owned a bakery or restaurant. They might have connections that can serve you. 

Or if you are a manager but you want to move up in your career, you might find a coach to help you overcome mindset barriers to your next move, but a mentor would likely be someone who’s already climbed the corporate ladder and perhaps has retired and can share the dos and don’ts with you. 

So consider where you are in your career or business and what mentoring can offer you. If you’re working with a coach, you can still hire a mentor. They do different things. If you end up working with a mentor as a result of listening to this episode, leave a comment for me about your experience. And if you are open to mentoring someone else, leave a comment under this episode and share what your expertise is, what kind of mentee you’d be willing to take on, and how they can get in touch. 

Join me next week to learn how you can develop a growth mindset. Until then, take care.

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