A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of being the keynote speaker at a student leadership retreat at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, OH. One of the themes that I was asked to discuss was getting connected and staying connected to mentors. Here’s some of what was discussed in my presentation.
Your college degree will get you to the door but your mentor will get you inside the building. Your college degree alone will not guarantee you a successful career. In fact, the first step towards graduating from college and ultimately becoming successful in your career is getting connecting with a mentor. Understanding why you need a mentor is important but understanding how to find and develop a great relationship with a mentor is even more important. Here are a few suggestions on how to get a mentor.
#1. Build a reputation as an overachiever – There is a saying, “When the pupil is ready the master will appear.” When you appear to be coachable and focused on your goals, it will be these attributes that attract the best sort of mentor. The more you stand out as someone who strives for excellence, the easier you will be identified by a potential mentor. Put another way, mentors love working with mentees who have the potential to be great.
#2. Follow up – So what if you don’t have a reputation as an overachiever? If you would like to develop a relationship with a mentor, simply follow up. After your first initial meeting with a potential mentor, the next important action is the follow up. Similar to dating, following up with some form of correspondence let’s them know that you are interested. In my opinion, the best type of follow up is a short email. Don’t be intimidated, remember friends were once strangers.
#3. Don’t ask for favors – One of the biggest mistakes that I see young people making when pursing a mentor is asking for favors, specifically, right after the first correspondence. As a mentee you are in no position to ask for favors until you have established a good relationship. Rather than asking for a favor, be the first to give. No not money, jewelry, or expensive vacations (although I’m sure no one would complain). Compliments, suggested readings, and valuable information regarding their interest are all great ways to get your mentor’s attention. Once you get their attention it will be easier to establish a relationship.
#4. Will you be mine? – No, I’m not talking about Valentine’s day. I’m talking about asking the question “Will you be my mentor?” Sometimes mentoring just happens and other times you have to be intentional. Telling the person that you would like to be mentored can flat out save time and energy.
Get a mentor. It’s the first step in getting connected, staying connected, and graduating