Finding a mentor may be on every rep’s to-do list at some point. But, not every rep gets around to it. Or, they find a mentor but the relationship never really reaches its potential (or is even helpful). “While most professionals agree that having a mentor is beneficial, few people, especially early in their careers, know how to find a mentor and make sure it’s a productive and meaningful relationship,” writes Lisa Rabasca Roepe for The Muse.
Reps may be missing out on an opportunity to enrich their professional lives and career because they just aren’t sure how to find, and utilize, a mentor. Roepe shares 10 tips to help salespeople with finding a mentor, from discovering what they need to ensuring the relationship thrives.
Finding a mentor: Defining the role
First, it’s imperative that salespeople understand what exactly a mentor’s role is and how they are valuable. Roepe shares her definition of who a mentor is:
“Someone who can act as your cheerleader and guide, encourage you to apply for new opportunities, and help you to navigate challenging situations such as transitioning to a new role or taking on a stretch assignment.”
A mentor may be in your field or industry, which allows them to share their own experience and insights into what you face day-to-day. Or, they may have a similar role in their company or a role that you aspire to have one day. Note that a mentor is not the same as a sponsor. “A mentor answers questions and offers advice, while a sponsor uses his or her connections to advocate for a younger or less experienced employee and actively participate in their career growth,” Roepe explains.
Clearly set your goals
What are you hoping to get out of having a mentor? Do you envision a long-term relationship or one that is only for a certain amount of time? Before finding a mentor, you must have a good idea of how you would like the mentor to impact your career or guide you through a transition or challenge. “Determine the gaps in your work performance and what you need to better understand about your industry or employer,” she writes.
Seek the right people
Now, it’s time to consider who might fulfill the role. Finding a mentor requires you to be thoughtful in deciding who to reach out to. A mentor doesn’t have to be a high-level executive or power player. In fact, a mentor could even be someone who is at your level. “Someone three to five years ahead of you might have more practical and relevant advice than someone 20 or 30 years your senior, who may be less in touch with the day-to-day realities of someone at your level,” she points out. Also, keep in mind that one person might not fulfill all of your needs or goals. Seeking out more than one person for different types of mentorship is also a possibility; Roepe suggests thinking of them as your own board of advisors.
Most importantly, let your goals be your guide. Use them to qualify prospective mentors
Consider different perspectives
Another step to finding a mentor is making sure that you consider those who may have views that differ from your own. This may seem counterproductive, but Roepe believes that doing so can actually push you to grow in ways you didn’t think possible. Think about reaching out to someone who works in a different department or who is from a different background. Listening to others who have had experiences unlike your own can open up a new world of understanding and empathy. They can also inspire you to see your own path in a different light.
These beginning steps will prepare you to determine the best mentor for your situation; the next steps will help you reach out and then make the relationship thrive. Make 2021 the year that you finding a mentor is a must-do.