Many people approach mentoring the wrong way. It is often a lot less formal than they think. You don't just walk up to a person and ask them to mentor you. Whether it be a colleague, a family member or a recent acquaintance, anyone can be a mentor in some way, if they contribute much needed knowledge and guidance to your life.
As such, if you're looking for a mentor, don't only look in traditional places like at school or at work. Sure, they can be there too, but don't stop there. Look around! Who do you go to for professional advice? What authors influence your decisions or who are some people whose work and life path you admire? If a mentor can be anyone with information that will be useful and practical to you, then train yourself to find them in "out-of-the-box" places.To dive deeper into this, I spoke to Phil George, cofounder of MentorcliQ—a mentoring software company that scientifically matches mentors and mentees for optimum success. Phil shared the five uncommon places where he has met some of the most influential people (or mentors) in his life.
Outside Your Company
Why only look at your colleagues or company's executives as potential mentors? A world of opportunity and engaged prospects exists outside your office. Industry trade shows or relevant regional meet-ups are ideal environments for finding and developing mentoring relationships. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to that impressive speaker or panelist who presented at that networking event you found on Meetup.
At Your Next Company
An increasing number of corporations are implementing mentoring programs in order to retain employees, so be sure to ask about such opportunities when you’re interviewing for your next position. There are now high-tech programs out there that match mentors with mentees. One such software solution is MentorcliQ, which matches people via a sophisticated algorithm similar to those used by dating apps that match compatibility profiles!
In Another Profession
While it’s invaluable to have contacts and references in your current industry, finding a mentor outside your industry has its advantages. They may not be of value critiquing the role you are currently in, but they can still help you develop other work-related skills that apply to any career path. If you’re benefitting from the relationship, don’t be put off by the fact that your mentor doesn’t come from your specific field. It’s the quality of the relationship and the knowledge being imparted that count.
Within Your Circle of Friends
The most effective mentoring relationships come about when both parties are engaged and benefitting. This can easily occur with a colleague or friend who shares similar professional interests. It’s not a problem to think about mentoring within the construct of a lateral relationship, as long as you are gaining insights and perspectives that help you in your current position.
If you follow a particular industry influencer on LinkedIn or on other social networks, don't hesitate to reach out and ask if they’d be interested in taking you on as a mentee. First, find some common grounds you can build on, so you don't seem like a complete stranger. Follow and engage with their online content, and post interesting comments that add to the conversation. If possible, attend their offline events such as presentations or book signings, and introduce yourself. If they can vaguely remember your thought-provoking comments and messages on their profile, you have a higher chance of them starting a relationship with you.