Mentor, in Ancient Greek mythology, was entrusted by Odysseus to look after and educate his son, Telemachus, when he left for the Trojan War. Due to this relationship, the word “mentor” became a part of Latin languages and is widely used to describe the relationships in which we are now very familiar. Relationships whereby a more knowledgeable or experienced person imparts their wisdom to the less experienced individual and is usually a voluntary relationship.
Mentorship can take several forms. Peer mentoring is where people at similar levels share their experiences and skills to grow. While formal mentoring is more structured and usually constrained by a time limit or focus like, career mentoring. Generally, the purpose of a mentoring relationship is for the mentor to help the mentee to realize the potential in themselves and to leverage their experiences.
Due to the voluntary nature of mentoring, it can be challenging to find someone with whom you connect with and is willing to share their invaluable experiences with you. The traditional way that students, for instance, have found mentorship is through a structured mentoring program, where students are matched to a professional in their desired field. However, once one leaves the structure of formal education, the need for guidance doesn’t end, but traditional methods in finding a mentor no longer work.
Finding a Mentor
I have sought mentorship throughout my student life, and thankfully teachers/lecturers are far more accessible. This continued throughout my university experience, where I joined a mentoring scheme to gain exposure to working life beyond education, and this was strictly related to my field of study. However, when I decided I wanted to pursue something completely different, I felt lost. I needed mentorship more than ever as I was treading new and unfamiliar territory.
Through the attendance of BAME Women in Technology events, I was exposed to a vast number of professionals and peers I could suddenly relate to and seek knowledge from. One event helped me understand the importance of mentoring and how to find a mentor. Many people are willing to share their time and expertise and take on promising mentees, regardless if they’re no longer students.
5 Ways You Can Find The Perfect Mentor
1. Attending events
Attending industry events and speaking to professionals or peers from whom I could learn is an excellent way to find mentors. I found this extremely useful as I was able to not only learn from the session itself but also initiate the conversation in person and more organically.
This is best if you are seeking specific information and feel that someone with those particular skillsets or experience could provide value. It’s not unusual for people to initiate a conversation via LinkedIn, which then evolves into an offline mentorship.
3. Workplace Colleagues
An experienced colleague might feel so invested in your progression that the working relationship grows into a mentorship. They would then spend time to help guide your career beyond your typical day-to-day activities. I must highlight, though, it is more beneficial when the mentor relationship is defined formally as being one so that both parties are aware of expectations.
“Being mentored by a GSK employee was one of the most valuable opportunities I had the pleasure of having access to during my undergraduate. I was able to gain exposure to innovative ideas and develop new methods of thinking while also receiving guidance on my professional development and skills. The one-to-one relationship truly allowed me to find answers to many questions I had, and through the power of networking, I was also able to form relationships with several other individuals from various areas of the company.Jibril Mohamed
I am truly grateful for the whole experience as it helped me increase my visibility and recognition, which ultimately helped get me to the position I am in today.”
4. Professional and Charitable Networks
These groups frequently list facilitating mentorship relationships as a core part of their mission. You get matched with people from similar backgrounds that share your professional aims. Muslim Women in Tech has a mentorship program that you can join.
“I found a mentor through Creative Mentor Network which is a charity that aims to help young people get into the creative industry by pairing them up with mentors I learnt a lot about the industry I work in, I was introduced to people in their network, I was offered work experience opportunities and gained a general sense of confidence”Adna Ahmed
5. Peer mentoring
This is one that is most definitely overlooked. You may be surrounded by people in the same educational or career level with similar goals. In this relationship, you help each other grow by exchanging skills and ideas as well as holding each other accountable on set goals. This can be extremely beneficial and motivating – striving towards a goal alone can often be lonely.
Sharing Your Knowledge
Receiving mentorship can be one of the most important relationships you can form in your professional life. It can shape your entire career in many ways. On the other hand, it is also important to remember that a mentee can also be a mentor for someone who is less experienced.
“I’ve learned a lot from mentors who were instrumental in shaping me, and I want to share what I’ve learned.”Herbie Hancock
Mentoring is especially important for minority groups, and for young people who are aspiring to be in spaces where they may be the only minority. Students are pressured from a young age to decide on their career path and so having a mentor at this critical time is essential. My experiences mentoring younger children taught me that BAME students typically do not have the same access to a professional network as their peers. Consequently, they miss out on opportunities to broaden their horizons and receive career advice. This becomes especially apparent when students are asked to seek work experience in Year 10. As such, it becomes imperative for BAME professionals to turn to mentoring BAME students to provide that much-needed exposure and sharing of expertise.
Mentoring can take many forms and can either last for a limited time or a lifetime. In whatever way you seek a mentor, the most important thing is to be brave and ask, and then to share. I will end in the words of Denzel Washington:
“Show me a successful individual, and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well, I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.”