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Seeking a mentor? 13 tips for making the right connection featuring T. Dallas Smith

By February 1, 2024June 13th, 2024No Comments

SOURCE: The Business Journals

Many young professionals know that having a mentor can be very beneficial. A mentor can provide a mentee with experienced advice, introduce them to new contacts and help them navigate the early stages of their journey in the work world. However, finding a mentor you can truly connect with — and who has the time and willingness to take on a mentee — can be an intimidating prospect for a young professional.

If you’re seeking an experienced mentor, it’s important to understand the art of reaching out effectively. Below, 13 Business Journals Leadership Trust members share some valuable tips for a young professional looking to connect with a potential mentor. Read on for strategies that can persuade an experienced and admired leader to invest their time and expertise in your growth.

1. Choose a mentor you connect with naturally.

Every other Friday, I mentor young people — many of whom I’ve never met. As mentors, we must remember that just a single word can have a profound impact on a young person’s life. If I identify with someone, it’s a natural choice for me to mentor them. When I entered the corporate real estate industry in 1982, mentors who looked like me were nonexistent. So, my goal is to provide the guidance that was lacking for me. – T. Dallas Smith, T. Dallas Smith & Company

2. Be ready to share your story.

Learn as much as you can about me before approaching me. Have a decent idea of who I am and what I can possibly teach you. Send me your bio. Don’t tell me what you do; tell me who you are, and be prepared to tell me what you want from me. No one frames a blank page — no matter how clear and crisp a blank page is, it needs to have something on it to be framed. Be ready to share your painting with me. – Rasoul Motavalli, Kelly Benefits

3. Have a clear vision of what you want out of the mentorship.

Mentorship can expedite the trajectory of a young professional’s career, and I have mentored many. A clear vision of what the mentee wants out of the mentorship relationship and clear goals of how they want to grow and develop are key to getting me interested in becoming their mentor. This clarity informs me if I am the right mentor and if I can provide the mentee with the best experience. – Jennifer Massey, Integra HR, LLC

4. Be specific about your reasons for wanting a mentor.

I have been an active mentor for young professionals for over 15 years. Researching potential mentors in advance and approaching them with your reason for seeking out a mentor — for instance, industry expertise, career path, or social or community service — are important. If I were approached with specific interests, I would most certainly engage as a mentor. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners

5. Be clear about the type and amount of help you’re seeking.

I have mentored many women in my industry and have had mentors. I love to be a mentor, but I also have many demands on my time. I request that people be clear about what they are seeking, whether it’s regular calls and meetings, random input and suggestions, one-time feedback, or something else. It helps me know if I can meet their expectations and how I can be of the best service to the potential mentee. – Christy Aleckson, Single Point Financial Advisors, Inc.

6. Be sure to do these three things when you reach out.

When I ask someone to be a mentor, I do three things. First, I include information on why I’d like that person as a mentor and how their background pertains to the specific challenges and opportunities I face. Second, I detail the time commitment and my expectations (for example, whether I’d like to meet for lunch once a quarter, have one call a month and so on). Finally, I articulate the quid pro quo: I explain how I can be of service to them so that it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. – Crystal Mathis,SignatureFD

7. Ask what the mentor needs from you.

Show initiative by highlighting how your unique skills can contribute to the mentor-mentee relationship. Expressing a willingness to both learn and contribute creates a two-way dynamic, fostering mutual growth and accountability. This approach significantly influences my decision to engage as a mentor. And sometimes it’s as simple as, “What do you need from me?” – Rahul Patel, Patel Gaines

8. Ask your current leader for guidance.

Start with your leader. Discuss what you’re looking for in a mentorship, and your leader can probably provide guidance and/or warm introductions to leaders who may be a great fit. If you’re reaching out to someone you’ve never met, start with an introduction and commonalities. Make a quick, impactful connection to pique interest. Ask to meet at a place that’s most convenient for the mentor so you can both get to know each other. –Bryan Palmer, UnitedHealthcare of Georgia & Alabama

9. Ensure you’re genuinely willing to be coached.

Have clear intentions and the willingness to be coached. You are asking me, as an expert, to share my years of experience in a short time frame. I’ve been very cautious about supporting those who want to “talk my ear off” versus asking me questions to learn from me. Humility goes a long way. – Ariya Malek, Educational Awakening Center

10. Explain why you’ve chosen that person specifically.

Be very clear about why you are reaching out to me specifically for mentorship and what you wish to gain from being mentored by me. What will the impact be on you, and how, in turn, will you use that impact for the betterment of others? Time is precious, and I want to see that you plan to use mine well and with clarity of intent. – Leslie Kuban,FranNet

11. Put energy into establishing your personal brand before reaching out.

Recruiting a mentor is much like being recruited as a prospective employee: It is best to have the effort and prep work behind you before establishing the connection. A prospective mentee should put tremendous energy and effort into establishing their personal brand and shaping their persona to clearly showcase their intended path. The steps to do so are easily taken. Then, reach out to prospective mentors with confidence. –Jimmie Lee, JLEE

12. Map their career journey to your desired path.

When asking a seasoned professional to be a mentor, I recommend focusing the conversation on how their specific knowledge and experience will be of immense value. This is best achieved by doing your homework about the mentor’s background and mapping their journey to your desired path. I would also outline the time commitment and other expectations. – Kent Lewis, pdxMindShare

13. Consider starting with a formal mentorship program.

If a young person is seeking a mentor, they should consider asking someone they look up to for an introduction to someone they know who is interested in mentoring. Alternatively, they can join an organization that has a formal mentorship program so they can receive training on how to be a mentee. This will help them understand the appropriate etiquette and move forward within a clear framework. – Lindsey Carnett,Marketing Maven

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