Starting at a new company or in a new industry can be a bit intimidating. Navigating the unwritten do’s and don’t’s can only come with time and experience. The best way to set yourself up for success in the long run is by finding a mentor who has been at the company; they already understand the priorities and goals of the company as well as what a typical path in advancement may look like within certain departments.
Mentorship in the workplace can positively impact not only future advancement, but also the day to day in your current role. A survey done by CNBC/SurveyMonkey found that “Out of 8,000 employees from around the country more than 9 in 10 workers (91%) who have a mentor are satisfied with their jobs, including more than half (57%) who are “very satisfied.” It was also noted that the numbers drop significantly among those who do not have a mentor. So how does one find a mentor internally?
Figure Out Prospective Candidates
This is the fun part! When you have some spare time think about what you hope to learn from your *potential* mentor. Have you heard whispers around the office about someones standout leadership skills? Or maybe you are just impressed by their career path? Regardless of the reason, you need to be able to convey your “why” to them when you finally meet.
Start Building A Relationship
Your *potential* mentor, no matter how fancy their title might be, is just another human being so treat them as such. Think about how you would want someone to interact with you. Chances are you would want to be asked about your day or weekend, complimented on your new fit, or just smiled at when you walk down the hallway.
In the case that you do not see your *potential* mentor around the office, start by just sending an introductory email. State the basics: how long you have been with the company, what you do, and why you are interested in meeting with them. You can end the email by saying “Let me know if you would be open to meeting. Looking forward to your response”.
From personal experience, most people tend to respond back just because the request came from someone internally. However, do not be offended if you do not get a response from a senior executive since there is a good chance the individual is busy. Do not take it personally.
They Accepted The Meeting! Now What?
Whether the meeting is 15 minutes or an hour, be ready to impress. Be sure to check their LinkedIn profile for possible things to discuss including where they went to college, a mutual connection you share, or anything else that can be brought up naturally in conversation.
Additionally, first impressions are crucial so dress well and smile! I know this does not come naturally to everyone, but the more informational interviews you do, the easier it becomes. And since this is still your *potential* mentor, an informational interview is all that the conversation is!
After you greet one another, avoid jumping right into what you hope to get out of the conversation. Be prepared to give an elevator pitch on yourself. Keep it short and sweet and if they want to ask any questions, let them. The conversation will usually flow pretty naturally from there.
However, be prepared to answer questions like:
- Why did you want to meet with me specifically?
- What can I help you with?
- What do you want to learn about my role?
If you cannot answer the above questions, you will look unprepared.
Also, remember to be mindful of their time. In some situations, the person may want to continue the conversation even after you have been talking for half an hour; while other times they need to get back to their work or schedule. By checking the time and politely reminding them the duration of the meeting you you agreed upon, you are exemplifying professional courtesy.
After The Meeting
Regardless how you feel about the initial mentor meeting, send a thank you email or a handwritten note. Hopefully from the initial conversation, you are able to tell whether or not you want to explore this *potential* mentor further. If you do decide against it, ask for podcast or book recommendations to keep building your skill set. This can be an easy thing to follow up on in a month or two when you would like to reconnect with them.
The Main Takeaway
Odds are that you will not know right away whether or not the person you just met with is your next mentor. Give the relationship a chance to develop naturally instead of forcing it. Hopefully, if you follow up in two weeks to a month later, the *potential* mentor will be willing to meet you with you again. The more patient and transparent you are in this part of the process, the more likely you are to succeed. Good luck!
[This article originally published in January 2020.]