What is a Mentorship Program and How Can You Join One?
We’ve talked a lot about mentorship and it’s no secret why. It’s a vital way to help anyone reach higher and unlock their potential. Without mentoring, people are left to completely fend for themselves, and while that experience can be valuable, it sometimes leads to discouragement, painful mistakes and burnout.
Mentoring isn’t about just teaching someone, it’s about helping an individual bring their own set of unique talents in line with the values, protocol and best practices of existing an organization or profession. Mentoring provides someone with helpful examples of how others approached problem solving. The mentee can then use that information to craft new and better ways of working and approaching challenges.
Why Join a Mentorship Program?
Without mentoring, you’ll sometimes be flying blind, making mistakes that may set you back unnecessarily. Everyone makes mistakes, and mentoring isn’t about avoiding them entirely. It’s about making your mistakes and failures productive and helping you use them as stepping stones to growth.
Imagine a newly minted attorney. They have recently passed the bar, and now wish to start their own private practice. There are certainly books and seminars that can help get them started. However, complex and unforeseen cases and questions are certainly going to come up.
Learning on the job is an inevitability, but as a lawyer you never want to be making mistakes that put your reputation or livelihood on the line. This is a great example of how helpful a mentor could be. A trusted and more senior attorney can be a great resource to assist you in tackling a problem you haven’t faced, or one that seems insolvable.
A mentor will be able to say, “I faced a similar question once. Here’s what I did.” Or, “Let me take a look at what you’ve done and see if I can spot any problems or make some recommendations.” The new attorney can then take that information and synthesize a new solution that works best for them in this unique situation.
How Can I Find a Mentoring Program?
Achieving a high level of success requires resourcefulness and self-advocacy. This is certainly the case when it comes to finding a mentorship program. While there are definitely times where your employer may connect you with formal or more informal mentoring, there are a lot of cases where you are on your own.
The following are some ideas to get you started finding a mentoring program.
Formal Employer Provided Mentoring
Some companies have their own formal mentor mentee matching programs. They may have a plan laid out to make the most of everyone’s time. They may even have a limited number of weeks or sessions.
If this is the case at your company, then finding a mentor is easy. That doesn’t mean it won’t still take work on your part to make the relationship successful. If your employer has taken the time to match people deliberately the chances of a productive relationship are increased.
If the match is random, you might find that it’s not a good fit. Some people have personalities and methods that just don’t sync up. This is when you’ll need to self-advocate. If you can adapt and make it work, that’s great. If you think that the relationship isn’t the best use of both parties’ time, approach the supervisor of the program and see if you can switch mentors.
Other companies may not have a formal matching of senior and newer team members. In this case, it’s up to you to find your own. Observation and networking are key.
Spend time getting to know several more senior employees. There’s many ways to do this depending on the way your company is structured. You may be able to take on projects with people, or just get to know them by being social.
If you find someone you click with, now is a great time to approach them about being a mentor. Have realistic expectations of their time limits and workload. Be upfront and stick to a schedule. For instance, you might ask if you can take them out for coffee every month so you can talk about questions and challenges.
By explicitly saying you’d like them to mentor you, they may have their own experiences with being mentored that they can bring to bear and help you even more.
Every field has one or more major organizations connecting individuals practicing that profession. A few examples include the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, the American Institute of CPAs, and many more.
The professional associations are an invaluable resource for finding mentors. Many of them have dedicated websites to help you connect with a more senior individual in your field.
Make sure that down the road, you turn around and participate in these programs as a mentor. You’ll find you benefit just as much as your mentees.
Professional societies are a great way to start, but you can also find mentors through the art of networking. Attend local chamber of commerce events and community events. Join local organizations. Sponsor or coach a youth sports team. The goal is to get out and meet as many people as you can.
Being genuine and gracious is such an important part of this process. I recommend you don’t approach it from the standpoint of just asking a person to mentor you. Truly take the time to get to know people and participate in these organizations, and see what happens. Your mentor mentee relationship will be much stronger when it starts with mutual respect.
You can earn that respect by being professional and caring at all times. See people as people first, then if your interests and experiences align, you’ll be in a great position to find a mentor.
Mentoring Matching Services
There are several professional mentoring matching services that have mentors from many different fields and backgrounds, and can match you up with someone that meets your needs.
Small business owners might benefit by working with SCORE.org, a network of volunteer business mentors. Though you can search by zip code, SCORE mentors are available nationwide through remote platforms, making it easy to match with someone.
Making the Most of Mentoring
Whatever method you use to find a mentor, make sure to stick to some fairly common sense guidelines to make the most of your experience.
Remember that a mentor is taking time out of their busy schedule to help you. Make sure you are always prompt and courteous. If something comes up and you can’t make it a planned meeting, make sure to give plenty of notice.
Show your gratitude and appreciation. Mentors aren’t expecting gifts, but make sure to thank them, verbally and in writing. Listen actively by asking questions and showing that you are taking their advice to heart.
Living Pono is dedicated to communicating business management concepts with Hawaiian values. Founded by Kevin May, an established and successful leader and mentor, Living Pono is your destination to learn about how to live your life righteously and how that can have positive effects in your career. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or contact us here. Also, join our mailing list below, so you can be alerted when a new article is released.