From young professionals starting out their careers to high-level executives, a mentor can be an invaluable source to help you uplevel your experience and grow professionally. But finding a mentor who can help guide you and work with you in a constructive manner can be a challenge.
While some companies have a mentorship program to help facilitate connections between employees looking for a mentor and those looking for a mentee, others may not have a natural path to lean on within their organization.
Working with a mentor can substantially improve employees' ability to achieve their professional goals and foster leadership within the mentors themselves.
So you want to find a mentor, or institute a mentorship program at your company -- what do you do next? I got valuable insight from four executives about their experience with mentorship. Below, they share their tips for finding a mentor, creating a partnership, and instituting a program.
1. Focus on personal attributes when looking for a mentor.
"If your company does not offer a formal mentoring program, an informal mentor relationship can be equally as effective," said Cindy Miller, Chief Executive Officer at Stericycle, who stresses the importance of personality traits in a mentor, in addition to their professional experience. "Humility is an important attribute of any mentor as it allows them to be constructive rather than critical in their feedback and empathetic to a variety of situations a mentee may experience," notes Miller. From the mentee's point of view, humility helps to develop trust in their mentor, creating a positive role model for professional and personal growth.
2. Discuss the mutual benefits of mentoring.
Mentorship is a sort of partnership between the mentor and mentee that benefits both, says Ofir Eyal, Chief Operating Officer at Rakuten Viber. The mentee gets the 'secrets of the trade' from the mentor to use for her career advancement not only in her current position but also in future roles. On the other hand, the mentor receives a higher level of loyalty and respect from the mentee, which fuels motivation for both parties. "Mentoring is one of the most impactful tools in the manager's toolbox," shares Eyal.
3. Ensure mentorship programs promote diversity and equality.
"So often it's easy to match a mentor and mentee who are similar in gender, background, or schooling," said Tanya Jansen, co-founder at beqom. "But, it can be more beneficial to the mentor, the mentee, and the company itself to promote mentorship initiatives between pairs of diverse backgrounds. As we continue the push for fairness and equality in our workplaces, mentorship programs can be a vehicle to promote diversity and inclusion through active listening and value sharing, leading our society down a path to pay equality."
4. Find different mentors that contribute to the bigger picture of your ideal leader.
People seeking mentors often make the mistake of searching for that one perfect leader reflecting the ideal picture of a mentee's interests, background, or career aspirations. Unfortunately, it's rare to find such a mentor to pave the way. Jessica O. Matthews, founder and CEO of Uncharted Power poses a more creative solution: "It's important to look more at slices of mentors' lives that can feed into the bigger picture you're trying to build." She adds, "The key is having multiple mentors that add value in very specific ways, and taking on the responsibility of pulling together all their advice to create one cohesive direction for your career."
Finding a mentor, or in some cases multiple mentors, to work with can foster professional development and be a career-changing move, helping aspiring leaders gain new insights and a fresh perspective to grow in their role.