Julia from New York writes….
I am just starting out in my career and am looking for a mentor to help me understand and navigate the industry. What’s the best way to find a mentor and ask them for help?
Well, Julia that’s a great question. I’m always impressed when young people acknowledge the need for guidance and mentorship. Frankly, it’s a good idea at any age and stage in one’s career.
Before thinking about who to ask and where to look, let’s talk about what you want to achieve.
Are you looking for someone who can help you determine a career path or achieve your career goals?
Or maybe you’re looking to learn more about a specific subject i.e. merchandising, online retail or management.
Depending on what you hope to achieve could change who you approach.
Next. There are a couple of routes you can take in terms of finding the right mentor.
1. Direct Network
Ask someone in your direct network. You likely wouldn’t be asking this question if you already knew someone so let’s look beyond the obvious. Who do you have in your LinkedIn network? It may not be someone you know personally but perhaps they share a similar career path or is simply someone you respect and feel you could learn from. Spend some time getting familiar with who you’re already connected to and create a list of your top 10 prospects. Keeping in mind the reasons why you’ve chosen them and what you hope to achieve.
Craft the message
Be clear from the jump that you’re seeking a mentor.
Tell them why you are reaching out to them i.e. why you’ve chosen them. Flattery will get you everywhere.
Clearly define what you hope to achieve no matter how simple or specific it may seem.
Outline your expectations and what you are willing to do. For example, coffee, phone conversation, etc. for one hour a month. In return you will be on time, complete any assignments they give and receive constructive criticism. Things like that. This shows your commitment and that you’ve thought it through. This will no doubt be a commitment on both ends.
Thank them. Even if they’re not able to become your mentor, be sure to say thanks for their time. Simple as that.
2. Work with an organization
There are industry specific organizations who already have mentorship programs in place. Two that I can personally recommend are:
Camber Outdoors – Ideal for women in the outdoor industry at all levels.
Two Ten’s Women in the Footwear Industry – also for women but in the footwear industry.
Women in Digital – I’ve recently become acquainted with Women in Digital who to the best of my knowledge doesn’t have a formal “mentoring program” but does offer a similar format but in more of a group setting. I’m guessing you could find someone within this group once you get to know the members.
If this is the route you choose, I’d suggest contacting them directly with a similar message as the direct network approach. Enrollment periods to obtain a mentor may be at certain times of the year or annually. It depends on the organization’s process and timing but in this scenario you’re guaranteed working with someone who has a desire to serve as a mentor and there’s likely some parameters in place.
I hope this helps you along your journey to finding a mentor. Happy Hunting!