How to Find and Use a Mentor

I read a lot of business non-fiction, and pretty much all of them (that are aimed at women) advise us to get a mentor.

About 6 months ago, I started fretting that I didn’t have one, so got myself set up. I’m really honoured to have Faye Holland from Cambridge company Confinitive as my mentor – but it has been a bit of a journey to get to this point. 

Even though I’ve only met with Faye once so far, it’s completely changed how I’m going about things, and it’s like someone has jammed their foot on my accelerator pedal.

I thought I’d share some tips on how to get a mentor, and how to be a mentee. Because, while all the books say to get one, no one really explains how to go about it.

Set out your aim

This was probably the hardest part for me. I knew I want to be successful, but I hadn’t really visualised what that might look like. Much like when I was a mentor myself, it’s really frustrating when someone comes to you for help but doesn’t know how you can help them.

It helps to talk it through with people first. When I spoke with my boss about this, she suggested that I improve my project management skills since, in my role there, this was key to doing well. Thinking it over, I don’t want to go down in history for being a good project manager (though, of course, these skills are great and very necessary). Instead, I want to get my book off the ground, make a name for myself in writing about education and employability skills.

So that’s where I started.

Think about who inspires you

I made the mistake initially of looking for people in the same field as me. I thought about women who are two or three steps ahead of me in what I’m doing, and disregarded people who were doing other things. Firstly, I want to make my own footsteps and not follow in someone else’s, but secondly, the people in the same industry as me were competitors to our company, or people who I might not be able to trust telling insider knowledge.

Faye, despite being in a different field, has a lot of experience in the things I want to do. She has things I that would also like to have. And her outsider perspective, plus her expertise in marketing really helped me see things with fresh eyes. It wasn’t a case of “this is what I did so you should do the same”.

The search

I spoke to a lot of people about me wanting a mentor before I found Faye. It’s a very personal thing. I got really angry at someone who linked me in chat with someone who she felt was a good match – this is someone I’m going to be spilling all my hopes and dreams to, so I want to be able to scope them out first before contacting them.

Moreover, another person I approached wanted to be paid. A mentor relationship shouldn’t cost you money. It’s about sharing skills and knowledge, not about selling a service.

By and large, it is better to have someone you already know, but I know of people who were matched first and then created their mentor relationship. I’d love to see a social platform created where people can advertise for a mentor and be matched up. There doesn’t seem to be something like this on the market and it would be wonderful to have such a tool.

Don’t apologise

This is something I need to work on. When I first approached Faye and asked for her time, I felt so bad to be asking for her to spend her precious time with me. I still do. But in the same way that I really got a lot out of mentoring the students, I don’t think (at least I hope!) Faye doesn’t mind helping me.

Having a mentor has changed everything about how I work and how I look at my goals. They seem so much more real since having someone to bounce ideas off of.

Have you got a mentor? If not, would you consider it? Let me know in the comments!

 

Comments

  1. Ashley Bissonnette says:

    This is interesting and reminds me a lot of my experiences in community theatre. There’s always someone senior who has more experience than you and always a need for more people and help so it’s quite normal to be always learning and training someone. I suppose that’s more apprenticeship than mentoring, though I know a few people that have established a long-term working relationship with someone and have worked hard to raise up someone through the ranks.
    For the first time ever I was the person with the most experience and leading someone under me for a production for props and I wish I could say I did a better job. It’s bad because I have trust issues and am terrible at delegating tasks. It also didn’t help that we were physically far away so in other circumstances I would have had him come over and we would work on something together but it didn’t make sense to do that. I’m going to try and make it up to him by doing a session or two now that the production is done, we’ll see how that goes.

    • Charlotte says:

      That sounds really good. There are loads of resources out there for how to be a good mentor – do check them out. Maybe you can get some tips that would help.

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