I’ve recently been doing a lot of research about different schemes and initiatives businesses are putting in place to help tackle the frightening numbers associated to diversity in the tech industry.
It’s great to see so many businesses are taking a proactive approach with this with mentorship programmes. However, those people working in organisations that do not have anything structured in place may find the process of finding a mentor challenging.
Having been involved with official and more casual programmes myself (as mentor and mentee) I know the process can be highly beneficial, especially for those that are serious about their own personal development, but where do you start?
Ask for help
Give yourself permission to ask for help. Break out of the stigma that we’re born experts in our fields and know how to navigate life, all of the time. At times its challenging and we can even feel a bit lost or confused about how to progress and achieve our goals.
If you want to move forward, asking for advice and guidance from your peers is an essential part of career advancement. Having a mentor doesn’t compromise your capabilities, it will enhance key decisions and benefit you with support and insight that you could have otherwise been looking at alone.
Grow an organic connection
If you need to find a mentor yourself but don’t feel like anyone within your immediate network is right, speak to the people around you and ask them to help and make some introductions. You will be surprised at how many people will be open to doing this, there are a lot of kind people in the world!
Look at role models, someone you aspire to be one day. Whether that’s an achievement, whether they've delivered a fantastic project, grown and developed a high achieving team or have an aspiring career path which appeals to you. Find someone who can remember the phase you are currently in, or someone who may have been in a similar professional situation a few years ago. This will help them relate and empathise with your objectives and challenges.
Start by meeting them for a coffee and take it from there. You will see the best results when you build a genuine connection, it can’t be forced or either party ticking a box and going through the motions. When the discussions flow naturally and there’s an honest interest for knowledge sharing and collaboration, that big project or promotion you’ve been working towards will seem more achievable.
When you first start meeting with your mentor in a more official capacity, make sure you determine what you want out of the commitment between you both. Discuss the end goal and make sure each meeting is a step towards achieving that.
To keep sessions productive, make sure you are prepared. Outline key topics you would like to discuss, or a problem you would like their help solving. If someone is giving up their time to help you, use it wisely. Make sure you are working towards your goals in your time between sessions so that each meeting is another step forward.
This doesn’t need to be on a strictly work only basis. The lines between professional and personal are often blurred, many of us have made lifelong friends at work and we’ve all had to take a work call or answer an email on a day off.
If you feel comfortable to be open about your personal background and circumstances it will help your mentor fully understand the whole picture and maybe offer a different opinion.
Return the favour
You may not feel like you have the experience to mentor someone, but there is most likely someone out there that could benefit from your advice and experience. If you see someone that needs help, offer them your time, it could have a big impact on their career.