Nov. 20, 2020

Create Your Personal Mentor Program (You don't need a company-sponsored initiative!)

Create Your Personal Mentor Program (You don't need a company-sponsored initiative!)

If you’re waiting for your company to assign you a mentor, stop waiting! This is something you can easily do for yourself. Here’s how:

Step 1: Recognize that a mentor is anyone you can learn from. Everyone has experiences and knowledge different than yours. So long as you have an open mind, everyone can teach you something.

Step 2: Make a Mentor List naming all the people around you that you can learn from. Consider people at more senior levels, more junior levels, and at your same career stage. Consider people inside and outside your organization. This should be a very long list! (Hint: If your list is short, re-read Step 1.)

ProTip: The people you’ve identified don’t have to know they’re on your list or that you see them as mentors. You don’t need their permission to learn from them.

Step 3: Capitalize on existing opportunities to learn from the people on your Mentor List. If you already see or interact with them in team or all-hands meetings, start paying attention in new ways so you learn from these moments. Watch them to learn how they engage. Listen to what they have to say and how they say it. Ask questions to better understand their thinking.

Step 4: Create opportunities to learn from people on your Mentor List. Invite them for coffee or lunch or a walk or any one-on-one interaction you think they’ll agree to. Make it easy for them to say yes by piggybacking onto something they already normally do and asking for a reasonable amount of time so the request doesn’t sound like a burden.

ProTip: Start by asking for just one interaction. If it goes well, you can always end by asking to do it again.

Step 5: Come prepared with questions or topics to discuss. It’s your job, not theirs, to figure out what to talk about that will make the conversation meaningful and helpful for you. Not sure what to ask? Identify a goal you have and ask how they’ve accomplished something similar. Think of a challenge you’re facing and ask how they would handle it. Check out their LinkedIn profile and ask about their past experiences.

ProTip: During an interaction with a mentor, listen more than you talk. Remember your goal is to learn from them, not impress them with your expertise (that’s an interview) or propose a new business idea (that’s a pitch).

As the host of the Career Curves podcast, I regularly ask successful people for advice they’d share with others. Building relationships tops the list. By following these steps, not only will you be learning more from the people around you, you’ll be building relationships that can last throughout your career.