how to find a mentor

How to find a mentor who is perfect for you

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There are many potential paths to take on the quest for professional growth, including on the job training, pursuing a graduate degree or professional certification, and seeking mentorships. At one of our recent candidate events in Nairobi, we invited three experts in finance to hear their take on career growth. Mentorship was one of the primary areas they emphasized including how to find a mentor who is perfect for you.

Why learning how to find a mentor is important

“Mentors are supposed to help you make the right decision at the right time to enable you to grab the rare opportunities, “ said Job Muriuki, the CEO of Momentum Credit. Job noted that the pivotal decisions young professionals make in their twenties can make this the most crucial phase in their personal and professional lives (no pressure!). One thing we all can agree on is that we don’t necessarily have all the experience it takes to make these massive decisions on our own.

Learning how to find a mentor can provide you with someone to guide you in making the right choices, since they have been at the phase you are in and know what you should put more effort in and what to avoid. “Opportunities are not as easy to get — especially in a market like Kenya. It’s therefore important that you meet someone to help you make those big decisions,” added Job.

We acknowledge that mentorship is an excellent way to develop skills we don’t have yet, tap into new networks and improve both our personal and career goals. So what are the characteristics you should look for in a mentor?

Do you have a genuine connection with your potential mentor?

Some companies or training programs assign young professionals a mentor within a formal system. But according to Sharon Olende, Senior Advisor at Lendable, mentorship ideally shouldn’t be a match-up programme decided by a third party. Instead, it should be a natural relationship that evolves from shared interests and a genuine accord. “You have to have that relationship with someone; you will later come to a mentor/mentee relationship, but I think a natural fit with your possible mentor comes first, and it might be with several people,” she said. “It’s important to have that natural camaraderie.”

Many people think that they ought to ask the most senior or impressive person possible to be their mentor. However, it is more important to choose someone you are comfortable spending time with. Being relaxed will allow the two of you to easily communicate and guarantee a long-lasting, mutually enjoyable relationship. It will also allow your mentor to feel comfortable occasionally giving you constructive or difficult feedback, along with the positive.

What are you looking to gain from your potential mentor?

Next, you should think about what you are looking to achieve from this mentorship. For example, do you want to grow in your current function or are you hoping to switch to a different industry? Peace Osangir, COO of Kopo Kopo, suggests asking yourself, “Am I looking for career advancement? Am I looking to shift fields? Am I looking to move up? And who in my network can help successfully navigate that? Do we gel?”

“It may not necessarily be someone above you, it could be your peer, but they’re really good at something you need support in. It’s important for you to know what you’re looking for,” she added.

Once you’re clear with yourself about what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to understand how to find a mentor by defining the type of person you should seek out. Further, laying down clear expectations with your mentor not only helps to keep your meetings productive but also shows your level of seriousness with the relationship.

how to find a mentor

Panellists at the event; L-R Sharon Olende, Peace Onsagir, Job Muriuki and Ariane Fisher, Managing Director at Shortlist moderating the panel

Are they trustworthy?

You may end up sharing a lot with your mentor. For example, you may come to them if you’re having issues with your manager, need advice based on a not-yet-public development within your company, or are considering leaving your job. It is therefore vital to ensure that you pick a trustworthy mentor who will respect the confidentiality of your discussions.

Peace noted, “it should be someone who knows how to keep confidential information confidential — that’s important. You don’t want to have a private conversation about your family or your life and next they’ve repeated it.”

“My mentor is like my brother. We talk about family, business, life, faith, everything,” said Job.

how to find a mentor

A section of attendees at the event

Have they succeeded in a field(s) you are interested in?

It is essential when focusing on how to find a mentor you reach out to someone who has excelled in the areas you are interested in. This does not mean focussing only on the years of experience or title of your possible mentor though. You should go for an individual with the expertise to help you with your journey and bring the best out of you. This will ensure you are able to learn new perspectives to incorporate into your current routine to get better.

Is your mentor different from you?

While commonality could be great, it could be useful to have a mentor who comes from a more diverse background for various reasons such as learning skills you don’t have yet or to get different perspectives on ideas. According to Sharon, one guide for learning how to pick a mentor is selecting someone diverse. “Look for a mentor who is different from you. Check-in your community, it could be someone you go to the same church with, look everywhere!” she said.

Do they have time for you?

It’s crucial to ensure your mentor is not too busy for you. Are they able to set aside some time in their schedule to help you get where you need? “They may be fantastic, check all the boxes, but they’re just very busy. It’s a balance of time,” said Peace.

Remember that this is a two-way street; you also have to ensure you are not too busy to be mentored. Show up to the meetings on time, attend events your mentor invites you to and complete any tasks assigned to you in good time.

Learning how to find a mentor who is perfect for you, does not have to be hard. Lay down the areas you need help with and pick someone who can give valuable advice throughout the journey. Ensure that you gel, they have time for you and that they are trustworthy. And yes, you can have more than one 🙂

How did you pick your mentor? Let us know!

In the meantime, here’s another article that might interest you: Two HR leaders weigh in on building relationships with mentors

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Business Mentor: Two HR leaders weigh in on building that relationship

4000 2667 Brenda Akinyi

Cellulant’s Rose Gichure and WWF’s Victor Komu share how to build a fruitful relationship with your business mentor.

Through mentorship, we have the opportunity to learn from another person’s journey. A great relationship between a business mentor and mentee could be the difference between you learning the lessons “the hard way” or sidestepping mistakes in your professional journey.

Having busy professionals lend their time and energy to us means that we must be intentional about how we cultivate and manage such relationships. We spoke to two HR leaders in Kenya about what it means to have a business mentor and how to go about ensuring that we get the most value from our interactions with our mentors.

business mentorFirst, we spoke to Rose Gichure, Group Talent Manager and HRBP at Cellulant in Nairobi. Rose has been at Cellulant for about 1.5 years and previously, she was a Recruitment Specialist at Rose Avenue Consulting Group.

Why is it valuable to have a business mentor?

Having a mentor is like having a sounding board to bounce off ideas, an accountability partner to create boundaries and keep you on your toes, a parent to discipline you if needed, a friend to offer encouragement and a cheerleader to keep you going,  all bundled into one.

They are rooting for you, calling you out on your bulls****, and believe in you even when you are about to give up. A mentor will always be brutally honest with you and tell you exactly how it is rather than downplay any weaknesses they see in you.

You can tap into their wealth of knowledge, networks, as this shortens your learning curve. A mentor does not tell you what to do; they point you in the right direction; while asking you the right questions that enable you to put together a masterpiece. They have experiences you can learn from.

Having a mentor is not a sign of weakness; it shows you are smart enough and driven enough to succeed.

How can you be a great mentee?

Being a great mentee is hard. The journey is hard, but the fruits of success are fulfilling. You have to be disciplined, take criticism and accept your faults, be willing to be stretched and grow. My advice is to adopt a Growth Mindset and a Beginners Mindset.

Beginner’s mindset means taking on the curiosity of a child and wanting to learn new things, accepting that you do not know it all. A growth mindset means accepting to learn new ways of doing things vs always having a fixed mindset about how things should happen.

business mentor

Next, we got valuable insights on being a business mentor from Victor Komu, HR and Administration Manager at WWF Kenya. Victor has been with WWF for over six years and was previously a Human Resource Partner at English Press Limited.

What are the key things I need to keep in mind while developing a relationship with my business mentor?

Developing and maintaining a relationship with your mentor involves understanding and building on several things:

  • Which roles would you want your mentor to play? – A guide, role model, professional friend, thinking partner, challenger or performance coach.
  • What your first conversations are about – These should revolve around getting to know each other, building trust and agreeing on how to work together.
  • Begin to define your goals: – What does success look like for you? In addition to this;
  • Understand the setting in your relationship – Make sure you and your mentor agree on the expectations and establish a level of confidentiality.

What does a business mentor expect of their mentee?

As a mentee, trying to get the most value out of your  relationship is on you; hence, it is important to know what is expected of a mentee:

  • Initiate and drive the relationship – Be clear on the assistance you need. Find the right people in your circle, whom you believe would provide the necessary guidance. In addition to this, always follow through on commitments.
  • Allocate time and energy – Communicate more and schedule time to catch up on your progress regularly. Most business mentors, while willing to help are always busy; hence, you must value their time.
  • Take an active role in your learning – Challenge yourself. While every person’s success story is in many aspects different, a recurring theme in all of them is the dedication, time and focus required to ensure that you master your craft.
  • Openness and honesty – A mentor-mentee relationship creates a ‘safe space’ that gives room for vulnerability. Feel free to open up to your mentor on what challenges you are facing as this will help you identify any areas of improvement. Remember asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It takes courage to accept that you need a hand to help you reach greater heights.

Thank you so much to Rose and Victor for sharing these valuable insights and tips on business mentors! We agree with Rose that “All in all, the world is a better place when we learn from the ones who have gone before us and then pay it forward by mentoring others when the time comes.”

Now, we’d love to hear from you too! Have you had the privilege of being mentored or mentoring someone? Let us know some of the things that helped you build and maintain a relationship with them. Read more on how to pick your perfect mentor.

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