Aiming to be the best version of yourself is one of the goals of mentoring. So how can you go about choosing and nurturing a mentor to help you get there?
David Carter is a world renowned mentor. He believes that being mentored – and indeed, mentoring – are valuable components in building our professional network and therefore our personal and career potential.
David has mentored some of the world’s leading business people, sporting champions, movie stars, and royalty.
He spoke to us about what to look for in a potential mentor; how to get the most from a mentoring relationship and he explains why simply asking for help is a big no – no.
One of the first steps for anyone wanting to build a relationship with a potential mentor is to banish any fear of asking for advice.
“Be bold about it, and remember that the person you are asking will be flattered.
One of the misconceptions people often have is that they are going to be a nuisance,” says David, explaining that the best mentor/mentee partnerships benefit both parties.
He adds that there are ways of approaching people that will ensure you get off to a good start. Instead of asking for help with a specific task, ask for the person’s advice. “If you ask for something specific, you are putting work on that person’s plate. So don’t ask for help: ask for advice, as this costs the person nothing: they don’t have to actually do anything.”
Building the relationship slowly this way means that, in time, the mentor will help you further, out of his or her own choice. For example, if you ask someone’s advice on your CV, it may lead to them offering to send it to a contact, because they like you, not because you’ve asked them to do it as a favour.
A recent example he cites is a student coming to him and asking for honest feedback on what David looks for in a good potential intern. “It happened that I was then able to make a call to a friend, which led to an internship for that student.”
Carter adds that this mutual benefit is important to remember. He was able to help a friend or colleague out with an introduction to a potentially useful intern – and the intern gets a good contact for a potential placement. “The mentor gets as much out of being useful as the mentee gets out of being helped.” Everybody wins.
David believes that being mindful of what your mentor is getting out of the relationship, and then showing your appreciation for the guidance you’re receiving, is important in building a trusted and productive partnership.
But don’t over-formalise or over structure it, he advises. “Just take it one meeting at a time for as long as it’s useful and helpful for both of you.”
What to look for
David has identified a list of qualities and values that he tries to deliver to his own mentee clients. He suggests using it to come up with questions to assess the capabilities of anyone you might be considering to be your own mentor.
They include: credibility; honesty; reliability; generosity; commitment; empathy; flexibility and patience. Click here to read a sample chapter of David’s book, in which he has expanded on these in detail.
“I don’t follow the school of thought that says you should only have one mentor. Why not have half a dozen?” Although David works as a professional mentor, with clients who pay for his time, he reiterates that most mentor/mentee relationships (the ones we’re talking about here) are informal, and built on mutual respect, good communication and trust.
He also advises not to get caught up with the idea that mentoring needs to be for lifetime. It could be a five minute interaction with someone who shares a pearl of wisdom.
And, be open minded about who you identify as a potential mentor. It doesn’t necessarily have to be someone older or much more experienced than you. Peer to peer advice is often very valuable.
“If you’re a new chef in a kitchen and there are lots of people who’ve been there for a long time, there are plenty of things you can learn. And you will get more out of it if you come across as a generous giver.” They will have something to learn from you too, is his point.
Find the right person to be your mentor, says David, and you will reap the benefits of another person’s experience, perspective and knowledge.
Why having a mentor could get you a pay rise
Well. Let’s be straight about this. It won’t – directly at least. But who can argue that building your value by learning from others with different skills and life experience to your own, won’t ultimately put you in a strong position for a promotion – if that’s your goal?
Gaining confidence as an individual and gleaning useful feedback that you put into practice, may give you the boost you need to apply for a new job, or even to consider a completely new career path.
“Being a mentor and a mentee is all part of building relationships in business and developing your network,” says David.
And that means growing your self-worth and your career and – who knows – that pay rise may well follow.