First rule of finding a mentor: don’t ask someone to mentor you. Ah, it’s cringe-worthy. Worse yet is that no one tells you these things.
What I’ve learned over the years of my graduate degrees and academia is that it comes down to your performance and potential.
Mentorships happen copacetically, they cannot be forced. They occur when a mentor sees the potential in someone and offers something of value to further encourage that growth. This connection between the two is reciprocal, and when done correctly both people benefit. No one wants to mentor someone they don’t get along with or want to spend time with.
How do you find a mentor? First thing you need to do is capture their attention in a good way. Become familiar to this person. Work with them, for them, alongside them or volunteer for them. If you don’t know them yet, you need to pitch them. 30 second, 1 minute, 2 minute elevator pitches that you’ve practiced with military precision. You better be prepared! Take advantage of every chance meeting in the hallway, coffee shop or parking lot. These are brief but essential moments for you to push through the crowd and stand out. Have something well prepared.
This is what a great mentorship can do for you: A great mentorship will push you past your comfort zone. Mentors believe in your capabilities but won’t take any crap from you either. They’ll force you to start taking ownership for your career and your success and encourage you to do things you never thought possible. Great mentors have been fundamental to where I am today and have encouraged me every step of the way throughout my PhD and beyond.
This is how a real mentorship should develop: I’m currently mentoring some young women, and they never asked me to mentor them, it happened organically as I got to know them over several of my courses. It happened after I saw their work ethic, determination, and their (positive) attitude. If you’re not a go-getter….no one’s getting you. Get it?
Look for like-minded peers & mentor each other: Don’t discount the value that like-minded peers can give each other. Support, validation, and encouragement from people like yourself who are fiercely going after their goals is a gift. Harness that positive energy.
A mentorship is a professional relationship. Friendships may develop overtime, but never forget this is a professional relationship. Take it seriously, nobody wants to hand-hold you, so maximize your opportunities. Learn everything you can. Then pay it forward when it’s your turn.