You may be lucky enough to find a boss, experienced colleague, or luminary in your industry to meet all of your mentoring needs. You’re probably looking for smart advice to help you take your work and career to the next level.
In our March 31 workshop on How to Find Mentoring Anywhere as part of our Quartz at Work (From Anywhere) workshop series, our panel of experts offered mentoring themselves and shared how they found, orchestrated and advocated for has opened guides from others .
Click the large image above for the full replay, or read on for key takeaways from our panelists at the Accenture-sponsored event:
- Sean Cain, Director of Career & Performance at Disney General Entertainment Content
- Paulina Karpis, co-founder of brunchwork, a business education startup with a strong network component
- Chloe Barzey, senior managing director, global account leader and managing director of the Atlanta office for Accenture
- Richard Wilson II, a technical program manager at Meta who recently completed a summer fellowship at the Takeoff Institute, which offers mentoring to black students in the United States
Find out what kind of mentor you need
One listener noted that she’s considering a career turning point, but wasn’t sure where to focus – and unsure how to approach a potential mentor when her own goals are so unclear. Disney’s Sean Cain assures her that she is not alone. “Most people — and I’ve worked with over 1,300 people one-on-one — have no idea what they want to do next,” he says.
When you’re looking for mentorship, there are typically four ways to categorize what you’re looking for, says Cain. Before you do anything else, figure out which bucket you fall into so you can have clarity about what you’re looking for. Is the mentoring you are looking for about:
- Your existing role? If you like where you are and want to make sure your skills are as good as possible, you may already have a good idea of who to consult for mentoring.
- A horizontal movement? Maybe you like what you do but want to do it in a different team or work environment. If so, find like-minded colleagues or peers who can talk to you about the jump.
- A vertical movement? Maybe you already know the path you want to take, and maybe there are obstacles to getting there (the position you want next isn’t open or exists yet, or your prospective boss can’t get that headcount approved). “What else can you do on this vertical path?” says Cain. You may be able to take on new types of responsibilities that will prepare you for the next role.
- Strictly exploratory? Don’t be ashamed of not knowing what to do next. A good mentor can be a valuable sounding board to help you find just that.
No matter what category you’re in, says Cain, “it all depends on who I talk to next to find out what I don’t know?”
Read more in quartz at work: Mary Barra’s Unexpected Advice to people who are looking for a deeply influential mentor
Cold emails can really work
If you are at the beginning of your career and have few contacts, like Paulina Karpis was when she started developing her idea for brunch work, access to mentoring can admittedly be difficult. “Since I didn’t know anyone, the best avenue I had was really cold email,” says Karpis. The boldness has earned her several brunchwork curriculum speakers and trainers, as well as mentors who guide her through the experience of building a business.
She shares two tips for others who might be thinking about reaching out to people they don’t know yet electronically.
Tip 1: Write brieflyt. (This is also true when reaching out to relatively new or even established connections.) “Edit until you think it’s the most succinct version of that email,” says Karpis.
Tip 2: Offer “Social Proof.“Where you work, where you went to school, previous business results, other people you’ve been in contact with — these are all examples of social proof that can mean the difference between whether you get a response or not. “Whatever social evidence you have to increase the likelihood of a potential mentor making the meeting with you, turn it in,” Karpis says.
Read more in quartz: How to improve your writing
Understand the difference between a coach, a mentor and a sponsor
“They all contribute something different,” says Accenture’s Chloe Barzey.
“A mentor is someone who advises you; You can talk to them about anything, be it work related or outside of work. I have mentors across the board for things I want to learn – when I want to learn how to play golf, when I want to explore different aspects of my job. I have mentors teaching me about the metaverse.”
While mentors can come from inside or outside your organization, sponsors have an impact on where you work (or want to work). They are familiar with your work and will act on your behalf. Or as Barzey puts it: “Where a mentor will lift you up, a sponsor will lift you up. A mentor can help you network, a sponsor will add you to their network.”
Trainers, on the other hand, are usually paid and work mostly to prepare you (say, for that big meeting or that tough conversation) or to help you critique your performance afterwards so you can better understand how you’re behaving have and what you might do differently next time.
Incidentally, a boss can be both a mentor and a promoter, says Barzey, “but normally you don’t want to put your career in the hands of one person.”
Read more in Quartz at Work: When Your CEO Has a Coach, maybe you deserve one too
You will get more out of mentorship if you make yourself coachable
Richard Wilson II says the mentorship he found as an undergraduate changed the course of his planned engineering career — but only because he was open to the change.
“One of my previous mentors spoke about the importance of learning when to be right – and when not – or when to make the best decisions – or not. Having that kind of insight is super important because it allows you to think about how you can align your thought process or decision-making to get even better,” says Wilson.
Read more in Quartz at Work: The best thing you can do for your career is learn to be more coachable
Various tips on mentoring
Look beyond your mentor’s current role. “A mentor can talk to you about what they do on a day-to-day basis, but a mentor can also talk about what they’ve done in previous roles or sectors,” says Wilson.
Keep the connection alive. Once you’ve established a relationship, nurture it in small, authentic ways by asking the mentor what’s new in their world, why they made a particular decision, or letting them know about a new project you’re up to have started. That way, Wilson says, “it’s not like by the time you ask your mentor for something, you’re coming from the far outskirts of left field.”
Don’t overthink your contribution to the mentor. It may be that you only have the insight of a young customer or young employee to offer. It’s good! “Mentors have reached a level in their careers where they are no longer in the weeds, not so much in the details. It is often the mentee who sees trends, innovations and opportunities far ahead of the mentor,” says Karpis. And remember, “Just because you’re early in your career doesn’t mean you don’t have valuable relationships to contribute, and even if you don’t have them now, you will have them three to five years from now.” “
Consider a larger gathering if you’re taking advice from an industry luminary. “Some form of one-to-many mentorship is a much easier question when schedules are full,” says Karpis. “There are only so many mentees a mentor can take on.”
Don’t let a distant or hybrid environment put you off your search for mentoring. “You just have to be more aware,” says Barzey. Plus, during Zoom meetings, you can “chat with people on the site and meet people you never would have met because you didn’t meet them face-to-face.”
go slow Instead of going straight to a potential mentor and asking for their time or help, “build that relationship,” says Cain. “Make them believe in you, make them want to help you, and when the mentoring period ends, you have an advocate.”
Get used to “no”. If you send out 10 emails asking for time, you might not even hear from the first nine. “Don’t get discouraged,” says Cain. “It’s a numbers game. You’re closer, yes.”
Read more in Quartz: How to Find Meaningful Mentorship Without Asking Someone to Mentor You