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Three Essentials for Recruiting a Mentor

Updated: Oct 2, 2019

By Miranda Wilcox

Whether learning basic skills or perfecting self-actualization, self-improvement of any type typically requires more than introspection and self-reflection; it hinges on the wisdom, inspiration, or guidance of people who offer different perspectives. We tap into others’ expertise by reading books, watching YouTube videos, and attending courses. We pay coaches, consultants, and instructors to tell us what to do and teach us how to do it. But when it comes to recruiting a mentor, many of us hesitate.

So why-- if we’re willing to take the advice of strangers and pay experts for their support—wouldn’t we jump at the chance to work with someone who is choosing to help us in-kind?

In my work with women in all types and levels of business, I see three self-limiting obstacles that commonly get in the way of them recruiting a mentor.

Not wanting to ask for help

Think about the last time you wanted professional guidance from someone. Where did you turn? For many of us, it’s difficult to ask for help from another person unless we have established or anticipate some reciprocity. Limiting ourselves to that category means we may rely on a convenient option at the expense of a more useful one. And, for some high achievers, simply asking for help from anyone feels like failure.

Unsure about the goal

It’s hard to enlist someone to help drive an outcome if we don’t know what that outcome is. This can turn into a Catch-22 if we think of our prospective mentor as the person who will help define our goal. A lack of clarity ends up keeping us stuck.

Concern for the mentor

Mentoring someone can feel rewarding, but we know it is also most definitely an investment. And how many people in our network do we know who have excess time or energy? As women we’re especially considerate of others’ situations and may refrain from reaching out to prospective mentors, out of fear that we will overload them.

So, with these three obstacles standing between us and recruiting a mentor, what’s a high-achieving woman to do?

Embrace the discomfort

Asking for help puts us in a state of vulnerability. It’s a gesture that says, “I need you” or, “You know better than me”. Rather than associating vulnerability with being “less than”, think of it as an act of courage—a trait that defines the best leaders.

Define what you want

Instead of trying to figure out where you want to end up as a result of mentoring, consider why you are interested in your prospective mentor. What particular expertise or attribute would you like to tap into? When and for how long are you asking for them to commit? Get clear on what you want them to give to you and communicate that.

Make it about them too

As with any time you are trying to influence someone, make sure your recruitment pitch is tailored to what your prospective mentor values. Do you share a similar passion or mission? How might you become part of their legacy? Let them know that you will be sensitive to their time and, of course, always express your gratitude.

Miranda Wilcox is the founder of Thrive Potential, LLC, a coaching and consulting resource for individuals and organizations that want to grow success, equity, and joy at work and beyond. As a coach, speaker, instructor, and consultant, Miranda engages clients and audiences to expand awareness and deepen understanding of self and others. Her work and presentations are informed by more than 25 years of experience, advanced degrees in communication and organizational behavior, certifications in coaching and behavioral assessment, and a healthy balance of successes and failures.

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