I recently had dinner with someone who asked if I’d mentor her. She lamented that few people are willing to assist those seeking to advance their careers. While I felt her pain, I felt the pain of those who turned her down even more. If you’re struggling to find a mentor, it may be due to what I call “mentor fatigue.”
Last year I spent more than 125 hours mentoring. Along the way I experienced a multitude of challenges caused by the very people I was helping, each one threatening to chip away at my goodwill. I’m sharing in an effort to preserve the invaluable mentor/mentee system. If you’re seeking a mentor, please keep these things in mind.
In the beginning
Asking to “pick someone’s brain” seems a reasonable request. The person you’re asking has likely been asked the same question many times before. Few of us find ourselves with too many free hours to fill. Every meeting is an investment of time, so offer to buy dinner, donate to the person’s favorite charity or buy them a gift certificate as a thank you. All too often the asker doesn’t consider the value of the information being sought or the time it takes to share it. If you’re told that it’s not necessary, do it anyway. Rarely is being generous a bad thing.
Once a call/meeting is confirmed
- Have your resume and cover letter ready. Make sure they are error free. Typos are instant credibility killers.
- Conduct yourself professionally even if you’re not yet employed. If you’re meeting in person, dress appropriately. Always call or show up on time. Running late is not an option.
- Do your research on the person you’re meeting. Don’t waste time asking questions you can find answers to online.
- Come prepared with questions specific to your career goals or about how the person you’re speaking with achieved success.
- Send a thank-you note. If you really want to impress, hand write it.
- Send a status update email when you land a job or accomplish a goal you discussed.
- Unless the call/meeting is specifically to discuss revamping your resume, do not ask for help rewriting it. Focus on the particular expertise of the person you’re meeting.
- It’s natural to want to continue the conversation. Keep your requests for follow-ups realistic.
- Understand that when someone asks to be paid for their advice that they are asking you to make the same investment in your future as you’re asking of them. If it’s not worth it to you to spend X dollars to advance your career, it’s not fair to want someone else to donate their time.
- Pay it back. When you get to your desired career level, or as you move up, remember those who helped you and share your expertise with those who admire and respect you. Giving back is an incredibly rewarding experience … until you get mentor fatigue.
Looking for a mentor? Are you a mentor with additional tips to share? Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome your feedback. Want to connect quickly? Chat with Christy on Twitter at @SMEChristy.