Mentoring is ranked among the top 5 most-valued approaches to career development, but finding the right mentor isn’t easy.
Finding a Mentor – What Matters Most
Depending on your situation and goals your mentor’s knowledge, experience and industry are probably be among the most important factors. But finding a mentor, who cares about you and will focus on your best interests, is equally important.
The Internal Mentor Advantage
When you’re new to a company, exploring a career change to a different in-house function or have recently been promoted, an internal mentor can help you learn how to navigate the local corporate waters. If a respected leader in your company offers to be your mentor, say yes without hesitating. Why? They see your potential and want to help you grow into it. This person may become a sponsor, which means you have an assistant marketing vice president for your career, a door opener, spokesperson and more. Forced or chance matches, however, are typically not so beneficial.
External Mentor Advantage
Professional women who are matched with certified mentors at 3Plus International share these comments about working with internal mentors from their organizations.
“The person who agreed to be my mentor wasn’t really available and committed.”
“She mostly told stories about herself.”
“I felt that I couldn’t really trust the relationship. She couldn’t be objective.”
According to mentor and coach, Whitney Johnson, co-founder of Clayton Christensen’s investment firm and author or Dare, Dream, Do:
She continues “And the more we think of ourselves as free agents, like a sports pro, the more the idea of an agent, manager, coach, becomes the norm, rather than a stigma“.
At the same time, however, the mentoring experience delivers less value when you hold back and make yourself less vulnerable due to concerns about how you might be perceived by a mentor who’s in a position to affect your future. Less value may also accrue if your mentor can’t set aside his, or the organization’s, best interests, in favor of helping you see a different and better path ahead outside the company’s domain.
If you would like an external mentor – visit our Mentor Gallery to select a mentor
What Mentees Value Most
3Plus mentees, who are matched with external mentors, indicate that they value a “different perspective” from someone who has no vested interest in the organization. A survey of prospective mentees indicated a preference for external mentors. Respondents reasoned that external mentoring is less encumbered by worries about saying something that is politically risky and free of vested interests on the mentor’s behalf.
Whitney Johnson shares that mentees gain the most “when they realize that the mentor not only has expertise to share, but also genuinely cares about the mentee personally. We all want to be seen and acknowledged. “
Originally published in Forbes