Research by DDI found that two-thirds of women rated mentorship important for career growth. Mentorship can help create a path to the top of the organizational ladder, particularly for women who are still grossly underrepresented in leadership positions.
“Mentorship is essential to an individual’s development, and with today’s emphasis on establishing diverse and inclusive workplaces, the need for mentorship is crucial to helping those who would not normally sit at the table gain access to a seat,” writes Jarin Eisenberg, Major Gift Officer and Business Instructor at Florida Tech.
In addition, research shows that mentoring benefits both the mentor and the mentee. Both are more likely to receive an increase in salary, get a promotion, and stay with the company.
Despite these career benefits, 63% of the women in the DDI survey indicated they had never had a formal mentor.
So how can women find this invaluable mentorship relationship? Here are some tips for finding a mentor.
Consider Your Workplace
While you should cast an open net when considering where to find your mentor, starting in your current company often leads to a natural fit for mentorship. If your company has a formal mentoring program, that is an obvious place to start. Even if it doesn’t, and a mentee relationship isn’t happening naturally, Eisenberg suggests asking your supervisor to set up a mentorship or proposing a program. Not only will you benefit, but your company will too.
“Mentorship should be thought of as a tool individuals and companies can use to further their goals and objectives. We tend to think of mentorship as something that happens organically, like two unsuspecting lovebirds meeting in the aisle of a supermarket, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Through policies and specific intent on fostering an environment of collaboration and curiosity, companies can help their younger, less experienced employees grow their personal and professional skills.”
Seek With Intention
To ensure that your mentor reflects your values and aspirations, Eisenberg advises that you pay attention to who makes an impression on you in meetings and reach out to them.
“Be purposeful in your approach: Who is in a position you like to be in one day? Who carries themselves in a way you admire? Meetings aren’t just for getting work done, but they are opportunities to observe people and see how they handle themselves in different situations. Seek out individuals who possess qualities you admire and let them know how you feel. Ask them to lunch or coffee, and share with them some of your goals and ask them questions about their journey – do a lot of listening.”
Join Professional Organizations
Beyond your company, other opportunities to find mentors include professional organizations and associations in your industry. Nicole Snow, founder and CEO of Darn Good Yarn, told Glassdoor that mentor-seekers should search for locals working in their industry on a larger than local scale. While it might be difficult, “local organizations and events within the sector you’re interested in should give you a good base to start with,” said Snow.
For example, if you work in marketing and are looking for a mentor, joining your local chapter of the American Marketing Association can be a good way to connect with someone. Besides hosting networking and industry events, many local AMA chapters have their own formal mentoring programs.
Conduct Online Research
While professional organizations, industry associations and your workplace are natural places to look for mentors, conducting your own independent search can provide a more diverse selection. Consider looking on professional networking sites like LinkedIn to find seasoned professionals whose interests, goals and experiences align with your own. Websites such as MicroMentor, SCORE, MentorCity and Million Women Mentors are designed to help you find a mentor. Or, create a Bumble Bizz profile on the Bumble app to connect with mentors. The app allows you to provide a short bio, job experience and background on your profile and can match you with people in your area.
If you are looking for mentors on social media, make sure your own profiles reflect and highlight your professional brand. Lisa Heidman, Senior Client Partner at The Bedford Consulting Group, told Forbes that you should use social media to demonstrate your interests, strengths and experiences.
Find Additional Work and New Experiences
Another way to find a mentor is to take on additional projects in your workplace, through volunteering or with an industry association. Not only does this help you meet new people, but it also assists in expanding your skillset. Eisenberg says, “…seeking out additional projects to work on has been a huge benefit to my career. It allowed me to show off skills that I would not have been able to demonstrate in my everyday position.”
Ask the Person
Once you have identified a potential mentor, asking them to become your mentor can feel imposing. Just be honest about the skills and experience you bring to the table and what you are interested in pursuing. Snow suggests starting with an informational interview. In this approach, you can learn more about the potential mentor without any pressure of a commitment.