This article was originally published in the December issue for AfroElle Magazine: read here AfroElleMagazine
Every woman needs at-least two mentors. I have been asked by several young women and friends how to get a mentor, so I thought it would be good to share this information via Women Change Africa. In my opinion one mentor I think it is important to have for your personal growth and another for your professional growth. I can truly say that I have been fortunate to have many mentors in my life who have helped shape my path thus far. Some of my most important relationships with women started off very informal and yielded into more formal mentor-mentee relationships. As WCA prepares for our first ever Girls Empowerment Summit Sierra Leone, where young girls will be brought together to interact with young female mentors in an all day empowerment retreat, we thought this would be a great source of information to share with you all. I hope this article can inspire you to get a mentor nurture your mentor relationships or mentor someone!
What is a mentor?
A mentor is someone who is where you want to be and can help you get there. So let’s say you want to start up your own cupcake shop and have no idea where to start, a woman who owns a cupcake shop could serve as a mentor for you.
Why get a mentor?
A mentor will help you avoid mistakes, be there to guide you along the way and also serve as a means to get you opportunities to keep pushing your dreams.
How to get a mentor?
I have outlined very brief steps I have used in building a mentor-mentee relationships
1. Make a list of the areas you need to grow in
Create a list of the things which you need help with to advance you in your career (for e.g., public speaking, negotiating etc). When making this list, think about the things you can get from going on line versus those things that you need an actual person to help guide you through, for e.g. writing a good business plan chances are you can get that online, but finding someone who is really business savvy and is good at negotiating is something you can seek in a mentor.
2. Pick three women who are in your professional niche
Once you have created this list, think of a woman who can help you grow in the things you wrote down on your list. This woman should be where you want to be whether it is professionally in your current career track or in life, or a combination of things. You can ask people you trust to suggest women for you based on your list or even look around in your workplace for women. Make a list of your top 3 women and create your outreach plan of how you are going to make a connection with them. You can start with reaching out to one woman and see how things go and then keep going down your list. Your plan can involve setting up a coffee date, email, phone call etc.
3. Initiate contact
Initiate a connection with that person via emailing them, attending an event they are hosting or speaking at, or setting up a coffee meet-up to find out more about them. I would strongly encourage a face to face meeting if you can make this happen or even skype works as well. Meetings are very important and can happen multiple times. You should not rush to solidify a mentor, as this person will play such a critical role in helping you along the way so you want to make sure you both are right for each other.
4. Initiate a first meeting
During your meeting, get to know the person more and have an organic conversation with them, express what type of guidance you are looking for and see if this person has resources to help guide you. If they seem like a good fit for what you are looking for then you can begin to mention your need for a mentor even in your first meeting, this is totally your call and your comfort level. After your meeting, ensure that you send a hand written thank you card to that person.
5. Set up follow up meetings
if you feel that after your first meeting there is a good chemistry with your potential mentor, set up a follow up meet up or a series of ways you would like to stay in touch. If you don’t sense good chemistry, decide if you want to give it one more try, or just maintain a professional relationship with that person. The last thing you want to do is waste your time and the other person’s time if you don’t think the relationship will be a good fit for a mentor.
6. Solidify the relationship
This can take a long time or it can be brief. After a few meetings you should propose to your potential mentor that you would like to have them as a mentor and what you need help with. The key in this phase is to continuously keep meeting you’re your mentor around the areas you need support on even if it is once a month. Remember this is a win-win relationship and you want to both be able to grow in the relationship, so nurturing your mentor relationship and always being open is something I have learned is critical to ensuring that the relationship thrives and continues. As you continue to build your relationship think of ways to support your mentor as they support you, in order to both ultimately feel invested in the relationship.