How to Get a Mentor in 3 Steps in 3 Weeks: First, Know Thyself

ellen ensher tedx talk get a mentorRecently, I gave a Tedx talk at Loyola Marymount University about how to get a mentor. The hardest part about doing that talk was distilling 20 years of research and practice down to 15 entertaining minutes. So, this blog is about expanding on those ideas and presenting more resources and ideas to help someone get a professional mentor. In other words, it is everything else I wanted to say in the Tedx talk but had to cut out!

First, why even bother getting a mentor? There are a lot of good reasons and here are a few. You should bother getting a mentor because people with a professional mentor make more money, get more promotions, and are more satisfied with their career and work family balance. Those who don’t have mentors don’t experience these things. (There is a very well developed body of academic research that demonstrates this and here is a link to a recent article that provides a summary.)

Mentors can help you

Mentors can help you get ahead professionally and personally. Think about all the changes you might go through in your life such as graduating from college, getting married, becoming a parent, getting divorced, caring for aging parents, retirement. Anytime you take on a new role professionally or personally you need a network of mentoring relationships to help you succeed. Even uber successful Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, realized this as he connected with Washington Post’s CEO, Donald Graham to gain insight into leading as a CEO. When I became a mom, I found myself some mommy mentors. After I got a divorce, I found myself some dating mentors and single parent mentors. You need a team of mentors to navigate through new roles. When I wrote this book I found a writing mentor and so it goes.

Does everyone have a professional mentor?

So, if having a professional mentor is so great why doesn’t everyone do it? In twenty years of doing research and working with clients, I have noticed that there are three main reasons why people don’t have mentors. People don’t have mentors mainly because they

1) Are afraid of reaching out and don’t know how to get a mentor,

2) Don’t really care or understand the benefits,

3) Are barely getting by day by day and cannot add one more thing to their to do list- in other words it is just overwhelming to even think about.

Do any of these describe you? I think the main thing to understand is that getting a professional mentor is a process and if you spend a little time every week on this process soon you will connect with a mentor. In fact, I am suggesting that you follow the 3-step process of Know, Reflect, Connect over the next 3 weeks. I am going to do a blog post a week that expands on these ideas. So here goes…

Step One: Know Thyself.

Know thy self to get a professional mentorMentoring is a relationship with two people and you are one of those people and you must know yourself in order to specifically target and connect with professional mentors that you will really click with. In my Tedx talk I ask people to think about and say aloud what they are good at (or to be more colloquial consider: “What are you awesome at?”). This is great starting place but there are a lot of ways to go deeper. I’ve included some tools and suggestions for how to get to know thyself. It’s highly recommend that you take:

  1. StrengthsQuest Indicator and read the books, First Break all the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman and Now, Discover Your Strengths by Donald Clifton. I use the StrengthsQuest tool with clients and students frequently and they love it. The instrument provides you with insight into your top five strengths along with suggestions for how to develop them further.
  2. True Colors and the Myers Briggs Indicator— Myers Briggs is the gold standard for personality tests and can give you tremendous insight into yourself. I recommend visiting Patrick Kerwin’s website for more information on the Myers Briggs. I also like to use the True Colors instrument which gives you a less in-depth but still highly accurate peek at your personality.
  3. Strong Interest Inventory- This is available through most college career centers and is perfect if you have no clue about what job you would like to obtain. It will literally give you a list of jobs that are a fit for your professed interests.
  4. Another way to know yourself better is to avail yourself of a 360 feedback if your company offers this opportunity.
  5. Seeing a therapist is a great way to know yourself better if you have the time, money, or inclination.
  6. Ask for feedback from people who care about you.
  7. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and reflect on the experience. It might be about taking a trip, a kayaking class, or making a presentation.

Knowing yourself

Knowing yourself in terms of your strengths is great, but self-knowledge can’t all be sweetness and light. You need to know what your weaknesses are or what the Jesuits refer to as “growing edges.” In other words what skills are you NOT good at that you care about and want to develop? Be candid with yourself as there are some skills that you might really like to develop but there is no way in hell that it is ever going to happen. If you watch my Tedx talk, you will know for me that my skill I am really terrible at is singing! However, there are lots of growing edges we can get a lot better at with a professional mentor’s help.

So, this week I encourage you to get started. Take 10 minutes a day over the next week and reflect on who you are and what you are good at and what you would like to get better at.

See you next week!

You just read Part 1 of this series. Click below to read the next part of:
How to Get a Mentor in 3 Steps in 3 Weeks

About Ellen Ensher

Ellen A. Ensher, Ph.D. is a Professor of Management at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, USA. Dr. Ensher has an established expertise in mentoring programs and career advice, and is a frequent key note speaker and workshop leader for conferences and public and private organizations around the world. Google +
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3 Responses to How to Get a Mentor in 3 Steps in 3 Weeks: First, Know Thyself

  1. Kristy says:

    Can’t wait to try all these steps!! I wish I could have heard the Tedx talk live, but I’ll definitely watch on YouTube 🙂

  2. Jacqueline Nguyen says:

    I truly believe that knowing thyself is such an important thing. Knowing oneself is the foundation of a person. You need to know yourself in order to learn what personality type you are, how you communicate with others, and what your values and morals are. Once you know yourself, you can better connect with people—especially a mentor. A mentor who can help you with your career goals; a mentor who can help you with relationships; a mentor who can help you with different aspects of your life. Knowing yourself will allow you to connect and choose a mentor that is right for you; a mentor you respect and admire. A mentor that can understand you. And how can you expect a mentor to understand you if you don’t understand yourself? That’s why you should know thyself first.
    I really enjoy the list you recommended in attempting to know thyself. I wasn’t prepared and didn’t expect how much more in depth I would know myself when coming to Loyola Marymount University. In a few classes I have taken so far, I have had the opportunity to take the Strengths Quest Indicator, True Colors, and the Myers Brigg assessment—all giving me insight as to who I was. All these personality assessments are great tools—providing words and explanations as to who one is, but the last recommendation you suggested is something I value highly—“Push yourself out of your comfort zone and reflect on the experience. It might be about taking a trip, a kayaking class, or making a presentation.”
    It is through the experiences I had at college thus far that has shaped me because it challenged my values/morals—giving me the opportunity to understand myself better. This past Tuesday, LMU was hosting an event with Rainn Wilson from The Office. He talked about his “spiritual” journey and something that stuck out to me most during his talk was his saying: “individually investigate the truth”. It wasn’t until college that I took risks with an open mind; that I went out of my comfort zone—gaining new experiences and learning things about myself I didn’t know before. And some of these new experiences have forced me to “individually investigate the truth”—question and decide for myself my own decisions, morals, and values—rather than simply listen to what people tell me. And it’s the morals and values that make up who I am. And with a better understanding of these, I know myself that much more.
    Also, knowing oneself means knowing your weaknesses and your strengths/skills. I really enjoyed the aspect of your talk (and this blog) that mentions “why are you awesome?” It is in this word that forces people to reflect and realize their strengths, what makes them unique, what makes them awesome. And realizing this is such an uplifting experience because with this self-knowledge and confidence, one can do wonders in life. In this Youtube video by soulpancake, featuring Kid President, it talks about how “we were made to be awesome” (1:57). It’s an empowering and uplifting short video. When I watch it, I feel the urge to discover (and then put into use) my strengths and skills.
    And yes, we are all awesome. Once we know what makes us awesome, what makes us “us”, we have already completed step 1 of getting a mentor—first, know thyself! What experiences have you had that has forced you to learn more about yourself? Have you taken risks that has supported personal growth as to who you are?

  3. Shaina Julian says:

    I was very intrigued by your lecture on mentoring. I know that is what is close to your heart, and you have a great passion for it. I have always heard of mentors, but never really thought about the idea of having mentor(s) in my own life. Now I understand why it is so beneficial to have a mentor in your personal life and for you career. You aren’t constricted to only having one mentor. I related a lot to what you said about having a mentor for different stages of your life. It would be nice to find a mentor who has gone through similar situations in their life, like your parents getting a divorce to be able to work through it and feel like someone understands. Career wise, it makes sense that people with mentors get more job opportunities, are more motivated, and can make more money. I like your simple three step process of know, reflect, and connect to get a mentor.

    I definitely need to evaluate where I am in my life right now, and my wants and needs. “You must know yourself in order to specifically target and connect with mentors that you will really click with” (Ellen Ensher blog). I think we are often on such a tight schedule and cycle through life that we don’t have time to look at who we are and how we are growing. When you asked “what are you awesome at”, it was truly difficult for me to think of things. I know I am good at things, but we often are too humble or don’t give ourselves enough credit. I think knowing your strengths and weaknesses are important not only to know thyself, but also to live a happier and more successful life. Your steps to know thyself better are helpful, including the True Colors Indicator, which I am a fan of, seeing a therapist, and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. The True Colors test is a simple, but helpful instrument that peeks in to your personality. My results were gold as a primary color and blue as a strong secondary color. After looking in to the color’s descriptions, it made a lot of sense and helped me evaluate myself. “Those with Gold as a Primary Color value being practical and sensible. They believe that people should earn their way in life through work and service to others. Blue corresponds to depth in feeling and a relaxed sensitivity. It is characterized by empathy, aesthetic experiences, and reflective awareness” (True Colors Test).

    Your blog post highlighted the important of having mentors and the first step in finding one. It pointed out many easy and practical ways to get to know thyself better. I understand why that is so important before finding a mentor. One must know who they are and what they want and need. I plan on taking these steps myself to begin my journey of finding a mentor.

    A related article on getting a mentor-

    Questions to ponder-
    What areas of my life do I need guidance in?
    What do I want from a personal mentor/career mentor?
    What am I awesome at? Think of more things and believe in them!
    What are my weaknesses/”growing edges”?
    Should you cycle through mentors or keep the same ones throughout your life?
    What is the best age to set out on finding a mentor?

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