Search for mentors can produce stellar results
Think about what precisely you want from a mentor – and what you can give in return
Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his apprentice, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Photograph: Lucasfilm/Reuters
These days everyone knows that finding a mentor is valuable. But it’s increasingly rare that we actually have one. The answer, however, isn’t to give up on finding a mentor – it’s to broaden our search.
A curated arrangement of multiple mentors, or a “mentor board of directors”, can be even more effective than just one mentor. To form your own mentor board of directors, keep these questions in mind.
1. What, specifically, do you want to learn? The first step in developing your board is a rigorous self-assessment. Where are you headed professionally and what skills do you need to get there?
If you’re planning to shift functional roles, you may want to seek out a mentor with experience in your desired field. And don’t forget about personal qualities in addition to tactical skills.
2. Whom do you respect most? Once you’ve developed your list of skills, write down the people you know and respect who possess them. Think broadly – they could be peers, senior leaders or even interns or junior employees.
3. How can you arrange to spend more time with them? Identifying your mentor board of directors is great, but it’s all hypothetical unless you actually make an effort to spend more time learning from them. For each person, think through how and when you’ll create time to connect. Make a list and write down specific strategies.
4. How can you make the relationship reciprocal? As with any mentor or sponsor relationship, you need to make yourself valuable in return. For each person on your list, think about what skills or qualities you may be able to offer. For these relationships to endure, it’s important to make sure they’re reciprocal. – Copyright Harvard Business Review 2017