I have yet to attend a panel or professional development event where an attendee didn’t mention their yearning for mentorship. As someone who has experienced long-term mentorship, I understand this desire.
What I don’t understand is the average approach for obtaining mentorship. I’ve never asked to be mentored. In fact, I wasn’t consciously seeking mentorship. In hindsight, I probably should have but I didn’t. You live and learn. There was however synergy, an unforced connection. The same way I saw something in them, they recognized something in me. I admired these women, because of their titles and experience and their character and spirit.
The women who have mentored me and continue to do so, took notice of my work ethic, willingness to give, and wish to learn. After initial introductions, I carved out time to get to know them. During this time, I took note of their wants and needs, as well as their position on certain subjects. I gained this information by asking thought provoking and provocative questions. Cookie cutter questions will get you cookie cutter answers. I wanted more. I knew these women possessed good answers; they were older, wiser, and smarter.
Understand, I didn’t just talk their ear off for hours. Many of our interactions were short in the beginning. They were getting to know me and I them. Although these women could run circles around my experience. I knew I had something to offer, be it assisting on various projects, giving my opinion when solicited, proposing ideas that could advance their respective agendas short-term or long-term. I was eager to use my skill-set to bolster them.
We define mentorship incorrectly. Mentorship is not a one-way street with people giving out handouts. It is the exact opposite. You pay dues and earn your keep. True mentorship is collaboration between two people who admire and respect one another for their character, craft, and potential.
Mentorship is organic. It’s a process that takes time. The same way potential mentors vet you, vet them.
Do you admire them? Do you like them?
Are they friendly? Do they show you decency and respect?
Are they worthy of your time? Do you have anything to offer?
Stop asking how to get a mentor and survey the women you already know. You might have one under your fingertips. Begin to utilize your network strategically. Ask people out for coffee. Take time and get to know them. And whatever you do, don’t ask a stranger to be your mentor.