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Karin’s Leadership Articles

How Do I Find a Great Mentor?

by | Jul 18, 2017 | By Karin Hurt, Career & Learning |

Want a Better Mentor, Start By Being a Better Mentee

I can’t tell you how many times someone has asked me to be their mentor, and when I asked what they were looking to accomplish–I was met with a blank stare. I guess they were just looking for me to start espousing wisdom to help get their career to the next level.

But mentoring doesn’t work that way.

To find a great mentor, start by being a rock star mentee (and see how to find the perfect mentor).

Four Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Your Mentor

Just like everything else in your career, the more you put in, the more you get out. Show up with a plan to launch an enriching relationship.

1. Know What You’re Looking to Accomplish

Determine specifically what you’re looking to achieve from your work together. Is there something about your mentor’s background or skill set that you want to learn?

Perhaps they’re particularly good at navigating the political landscape, or great during times of stress. Or maybe you’re looking for better insights into how you’re being perceived in the organization or support in expanding your network with a few key introductions.  You may want to get better at positioning your ideas.

As with all relationships, you’ll be more successful if you both are clear on your expectations for your work together. Have an open conversation about expectations upfront to determine if you’re aligned.

2. Be Truly Open to FeedbackRespond to Feedback

If you’re going to ask for feedback and advice, be sure you’re listening. You don’t have to agree or act on it, but be sure to be open and say thank you. Nothing will turn off your new mentor more than a defensive argument about why their perception isn’t accurate.

Our REAP Model can help.

3. Offer to Help

The best mentoring relationships are reciprocal– both human beings grow in the process. Ask what you can do to be helpful to them– even if it’s rolling up your sleeves and pitching in on a project they’re doing.

4. Bring Conversation Starters

The first few mentoring sessions can be a bit awkward if you don’t know your mentor very well. It can be good to come up with a few “starter” questions.

  • What are you most excited about in terms of the future of our organization? Why? How can I best prepare to add the most value?
  • What’s exciting and energizing you about your work here? What are the things that drain or frustrate you? What have you done to reduce this frustration?
  • I would love to hear about your outside interests? Are you able to leverage any of those skills here?
  • Which are the skills and behaviors you think are required to be successful in my role? What advice do you have for accelerating my learning curve on those?
  • Which skills and behaviors have helped you be successful here?
  • What do you know now that you wish you learned sooner?

The best mentoring relationships are grounded in deep trust-– and that takes time. Be patient and invest the time it takes to truly get to know and support one another.

See also:

Your Mentor May Not Be Helping Your Career

9 Ways to Strengthen Your Personal Brand

Speed Mentoring: Jump-Starting Deeper Conversations

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

6 Comments

  1. Shawn

    Thank you for the message.

    I can attest to the importance of building a network and mentor relationships on trust.

    I also chuckled when I read the part about being defensive because I have been guilty of asking for advice and then arguing the validity of the advice. (Then I realized at a later date the advice was really great,and I should have listened.)

    Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      Shawn, Great to hear from you! Also, I think we’ve all been guilty of that from time to time 😉

      Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks so much, Jessica!

      Reply
  2. Corey Jones

    I am so thankful for the impact my mentor has on my life. Thank you for reminding me how to do a better job as a mentee!

    Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      Corey, I’m so glad to hear you have an awesome mentor!

      Reply

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