Mentorship is probably the most underrated aspect of searching for a job or building the foundations of your career. The guidance you can potentially receive from a mentor is invaluable, and their ability to help you navigate the unknown paths of your position and reach your goals more quickly is what makes them so important.
What is a mentor?
A mentor is someone with knowledge and experience in your desired field. They’re willing to share this knowledge with you to help you achieve your goals. A mentor should be someone who has achieved a level of success that you envision for yourself. It’s someone who can challenge you and push you in ways other people can’t.
How to find a mentor
Finding a mentor may not be as difficult as you think. You just have to know where to look.
- Your mentor might be closer than you think — start by searching through your network. Think of friends, classmates, professors or even extended family members. Hop on LinkedIn and scroll through your connections. Your mentor could already be someone you know.
- Do a bit more research — If scouring through your network didn’t work, start a list of people you admire. Once you’ve compiled a list of names, start reaching out. Send out emails and try setting up virtual coffee chats. Remember, just because these people might be outside of your network, you can still use your network to get in touch. You want to make your initial message as warm as possible, so before sending a cold email, find out if anyone within your network can put you in touch.
Why mentors are important
We interviewed Nsuani Baffoe, co-founder of B Element and long time health and fitness professional. We wanted to get first-hand insight from someone who is and has been a mentor for years. We asked Nsuani what he looks for in a mentee, how he communicates with mentees and other details that were important to understanding the relationship between a mentor and mentee.
As a mentor, what do you look for in a mentee?
Anyone who is keen on improvement. The general idea of a mentor is to help someone navigate stages of their life (family, career, health, etc.), so a good starting point is someone who is grateful for what they have but at the same time has big dreams. I get excited when I hear someone say they want to take on a big challenge
How do you manage communication with your mentee?
I use all mediums to stay on track with my people (in-person meetings, phone, email, social) as it allows me to better understand their world when giving advice. Prior to Coronavirus, meeting face to face at least once was effective. Body language, tone, and inflection are all important parts of communication, and I have to be able to sometimes understand what a mentee is trying to express to me, especially when they are navigating tougher parts of their lives.
Is the relationship one that is built over time or would you mentor someone random if you saw the right characteristics?
That’s an interesting question. I believe there has to be an established relationship in order to give proper feedback; however, you can get to know someone very quickly if you have similar traits as long as it’s organic and not forced.
What are your goals when mentoring? For yourself and for your mentee.
A goal for the mentee is to teach them how to trust themselves when making decisions. Good people know what to do but often allow their instincts to be suppressed by overthinking. A good mentor helps a mentee to make decisions that help them reach their goals. A great mentor builds a mentees confidence in a way that less instruction or assurance is needed from others. A goal for me is when the mentor/mentee relationship transitions into a partnership. I end up learning a lot from them equally which keeps me relevant.
Do you take on more than one mentee at a time?
Yes. I do not limit my bandwidth when it comes to helping others. If the saying “it takes a village” is true, then it took ten villages to raise me. Countless people, from all walks of life, took their time to help me over the years and continue to do so today. The organic connection doesn’t need to be capped with a number.
Do you put a duration limit on how long you mentor someone? If so, how long
Never. Once you are on the team, you are on for life. When someone asks me to mentor them, we spend time to break down their goals into the short and long term. We try to knock off short term goals with pace so that momentum is established over a year or so. However, the lines of communication are always open for longer-term goals that take years to achieve. Some relationships are going on 10+ years.
Maintain the relationship with your mentor
Maintaining a relationship with your mentor is crucial. You shouldn’t leave all of the communication up to them. Be proactive in setting up meetings and finding a cadence for keeping in contact. Ask your mentor if they would be OK with you reaching out to them randomly with pressing professional questions. You don’t want to cross the line, but you also want to make sure you get the most out of your mentorship.
Mentorship starts with networking
Finding a mentor starts with networking and getting to know others. Prepped has tools which can help:
- Create your elevator pitch exercise
- Email message and LinkedIn templates, when you just don’t know where to start
Sign up with Prepped and build your network
Don’t take mentorship for granted. Even if you’re not physically able to connect, it’s still important to find ways to engage those within your industry and build your network. Sign up for Prepped and get access to many tools aimed to help you improve your networking.
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.