Many of the organisations that we work with already have really good mentor schemes. Some of them even have find a mentor areas on their LMS or corporate intranet sites. However, as an addition to this, here is the advice that I usually give to women about having mentors.
1. Always have at least 3 mentors in your life in any one year.
2. Mentors don’t have to have the whole package, there just has to be a certain element that they can help you with, advise you on or guide you towards.
3. Think about what it is that you want to achieve in the next 12 months. Who will you need to meet and what will you need to know – Identify at least 3 people that might be able to help you with our journey (one of our recent delegates said that she didn’t know where outside of her own stream within her organisation she might want to work. I advised her to spend the next 6 months getting short term mentors outside of her work stream so that they can give her valuable insights and open her mind a little bit more).
4. Set time limits. For most of the mentors I have, I merely ask them if they would be able to spend 1 hour with me, twice during the next year. This can be virtual or face to face. Very often Senior people will be asked to be mentors an awful lot, I know I am, and have to turn down most of those requests because the time commitment would be too great. However, 1 hour, twice yearly will give you the opportunity to meet the people you need to meet, build your network and also get the information that you need from them – you can pack a lot into 2 hours.
5. How to reach out for mentors. Always begin with a compliment and be specific. Where have you met the mentor or heard about them? What have they been doing recently? What project has intrigued you etc. Ask them specifically what they can help you with. Guidance for finding out more about other areas of the organisation? Advice on how to handle something specific? Advice on how to build a potential career that takes your right up to the board?
6. Tell them about the time commitment you are expecting. A typical email would say: “Dear xxxxx, I really enjoyed seeing you on the last corporate broadcast and thought the way that you put over the point around our need for creativity was crucial to everyone thinking. I am currently a Project Leader in the Term Stream and am looking to move to another part of our organisation over the next 12-18 months. I have to admit that the many options this presents me, I am finding a little bit baffling and I wondered if you would be prepared to meet with me just twice over the next 12 months to help stimulate my thoughts and to give me some insight into what it looks like “Over your fence”. Please let me know if this would be acceptable to you.” See, I didn’t even mention the word Mentor!