There are definitely advantages of having an internal mentor. But, having an external mentor has its benefits, too.
Being outside the company, these mentors can help you approach work issues and career planning from a wider and more objective viewpoint. You can be more transparent and vulnerable with someone outside your organization. You’re not as worried about internal politics affecting you when working with them.
Furthermore, an external mentor may have a specific skill set that you’re looking to benefit from that’s difficult to learn at your company - perhaps because your company is too small or you’re looking to transition to a new industry. Lastly, they can help you make more connections outside of your company, which is extremely valuable for up-to-date industry knowledge and future job opportunities.
When you reach out to a potential mentor, they'll want to know what you need their help with, why you think they're the right ones to help you, and what they’re committing to. So check out my post on 5 things everyone should know about mentorship before you start your mentor search!
Have clear goals and know what you want to learn before approaching them. Have specific and time-bound asks.
Example: "I've been following your blog, and I am inspired by how you tripled your startup’s revenue in a year using your content strategy. Are you open to meeting with me once a month for the next three months to go over content marketing tips? This will help me effectively build an online community on mentorship."
To be able to deliver your asks clearly, you need to start by determining your goals and then working backwards.
I recommend reflecting on the questions below to identify and articulate your goals.
- What do you want to get better at in the next 6-12 months?
- What’s your next career step?
- What networks or skills do you need for that next step?
- Identify someone you've admired from a distance and ask yourself, "How do I want to emulate them?".
- Ask your manager what they perceive as your areas of strength and those that improvement.
Once you’re ready to find your mentor, here’s how to find them:
- Ask for referrals. Ask your managers, coworkers, peers, friends, and family.
- Research relevant professional organizations. They might have mentorship programs, and their directories and events can be great sources for potential mentors.
- Use your alumni office services (it was part of your tuition!). See if your alumni office has a mentorship program connecting alums. Search the directory to connect with alums you think might be great mentors.
- Approach potential mentors at conferences or other events. Don’t be afraid to ask speakers or fellow event-goers if you can follow up with them to gain their insights on particular topics. And that one-off coffee meeting may turn into a mentoring relationship. If you’re in the San Francisco bay area, you’re welcome to come to our monthly speed mentoring events, which focus on women in tech.
- Do cold outreach. Search online sources, such as LinkedIn, for people who might make great mentors for you, and send them a thoughtful message.