I would think there is no need for me to elaborate on what mentor-ship means and what’s it about. I think most of us know it to be some form of coaching, hand-holding and sharing of experiences from someone who has been there and done that. The mentor – mentee relationship is special and most successful men and women will point out that if it hadn’t been for their mentors they wouldn’t be enjoying the fruits of their success. I think most people would think of the concept of mentor-ship as a no-brainer. Here you have an experienced person who is successful in particular aspect of his/ her personal or professional life, sharing with you their secret success sauce, why wouldn’t anyone take it, right?
Well you would be surprised by the number of successful people who never get asked to be Mentors. You would think that they would be flooded with request for advice but sadly no. It’s just like how pretty women never get asked for dates. Now don’t get me wrong seeking advice and seeking favors are two different things. The first comes more from a thirst for knowledge and seeking a road-map for success, while as the second is merely asking for the reward without really making an effort for it.
I recently met a senior banker and probed him on how many requests he had received for mentorship and he said ‘Request for jobs and money plenty but nobody had ever asked me to coach and mentor them’. And I thought to my self what a waste of a potential resource. If I were to throw that question out there to people and ask them when was the last time they went up to someone they considered successful and asked to be mentored by them? I am not sure if I would get too many positive responses.
So in my quest to seek answers I did my own casual conversations with people and this is what I arrived at.
Reasons people give for not having a mentor
– I don’t need one. Or Do I need one?
Yes many people think that they need no advice or tips from other people. It could arise from pride, laziness or plain ignorance on how it mentorship works.
– Isn’t that for top jobs and leadership progression?
Many think this happens at only at top levels of an organisation and many also think that mentors choose their mentees but not the other way around, which is not true when all you need to do is just ask.
– Why would anyone want to share their experience and knowledge with me?
Some find it difficult to believe that anybody would invest their time in them for free. But you would be surprised how most successful people are open to mentoring others because more often than not someone has taken the trouble to mentor them in the first place.
So I asked some people who had mentorship experience on how one should go about finding a mentor? Some responses I got were
– Some mentors find you while some mentors you need to seek out. There will always be successful people that others will use as a reference point of doing things well, those are your potential mentors.
– Sometimes it as easy as saying ‘Hi I noticed you’re great at managing your finances and I admire that, I would love to buy you lunch sometime and learn a few tips from you.’
– You need different mentors for different aspects of your life. You will never find one person who can mentor you well on all aspects of your life. Their expertise maybe in only certain areas and that’s where you need to restrict yourself too.
– Show openness and a thirst for knowledge, enthusiasm is what most mentors look for.
There is no doubt that there are successful people out there who are open and ready to be our mentors, if and how we utilize them is completely left to us.