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

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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!

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How to Get a Mentor in 3 Steps in 3 Weeks