Part II of the ‘How to Negotiate Effective Relationships with Mentors and Sponsors to Advance Your Career’ series
Effective use of mentors, sponsors, allies and coaches is one of the fastest ways to launch your career and keep it on the success track. Yet this simple practice is often overlooked. This mini-series is designed to raise your awareness about how to find mentors, sponsors, allies and coaches, how to use them most effectively and how to maintain positive relationships to stay upwardly mobile. As with most things in life, this is a negotiation.
In Part I of this series, we kickstarted the conversation by highlighting the difference between sponsors, mentors, allies, and coaches. People often mix up these terms. It’s important to know what role each can meaningfully play in your advancement and career growth.
Like any effective negotiation, preparation is critical. Doing this basic homework is an essential part of the preparation process in planning your successful negotiations for effective relationships with mentors and sponsors.
Knowing they exist is a key first step in the process. I missed out early in my career as the concept of mentorship and sponsorship wasn’t in my consciousness. It cost me significant additional time, energy, angst and opportunities. I don’t want you to make the same mistake.
Today we’re going to discuss how to find the best mentor to help boost your career. Maximizing your effectiveness in this arena involves negotiating your mindset and challenging current biases or preconceptions.
Check Your Current Network
Who are the people in your network already? We often make the mistake of assuming that our search is ‘out there’ and ignore the low-hanging fruit that’s already in our circle. Who do you already know that may be able to make introductions for you, advance your skillset, advance your connections, show you the ropes and share the top mistakes to avoid? I invite you to go through your current contact list and consider who in that list could be a valuable potential resource for you.
Big Fish vs Best Fish
We also make the mistake of assuming we need to find a ‘big fish’ right out of the gate. Your mentor only needs to be ahead of where you’re at now. In fact, sometimes it can be advantageous to find someone who is only a few steps ahead of you on the path you seek to follow.
I made the mistake of building a base of mentors who were all at the pinnacle of where I wanted to be with my Women On Purpose mission. They were so far down the path they forgot what the foundational building blocks were, and so I spent much time running in circles trying to emulate their protocols (which didn’t work when I hadn’t built an audience yet). In hindsight, I would have been better to find people who were just ahead of me on the journey so I could learn from their mistakes and ensure I started building my business on a solid base from the starting gate. You’ll want some ‘big fish’ for the big picture, but don’t undervalue the benefits of ensuring you also enlist some ‘best fish’ for where you’re at now.
Build a Board of Mentors
Don't expect to have all your needs met through just one mentor. You’ll need multiple skills to launch a successful career, so it stands to reason that you’ll need multiple mentors. Consider what skills you need to advance your career and be intentional about seeking out mentors who can offer those skills. Maybe some are fantastic at networking, others at public speaking, still others at team building, etc. Are there particular skills you’ll need to advance your career? Hook yourself up with a team (or board) of mentors who can help in each area you identify as key.
Get Clarity Around Your Goals
Before you start to approach potential mentors, get clarity around your short-term and long-term goals. Use the SMART method. i.e. make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound. The more specific you can get about your end goals, the easier it will be for you to find the right mentors.
Looking Outside Your Circle
To the extent that you don't have as full a roster or network as you would like, get intentional about who you want to bring into your network. Once you’ve mined your current network, as noted above, be ready to look outside your circle. Who do you look up to? Who is best aligned with and equipped to help you meet your specific goals? Who would be a good fit? If you don’t feel you have access to those who would best serve, consider joining masterminds, programs, or groups that can help you get in circles with people can better serve you.
Different is Good
We tend to be drawn to people who are like us, who look like us, who come from similar backgrounds. This is known as affinity bias. We’re all guilty of it and it takes intention to break this habit or conditioning. Your mentor may not look like you or think like you. In fact, I invite you to be intentional about looking for mentors who are not like you, whether based on gender, race, economic or class background, politically, ideologically, and beyond. Look for mentors who represent a broad spectrum. That approach is more likely to open more doors, open more perspectives, and give you more value in moving forward to better advance your career.
These quick tips will help you find the mentors to best serve you. Negotiating simple mindset shifts with ourselves can better position us to take advantage of superior mentor relationships.
Stay tuned for the next part in the series, where we’ll discuss how to find sponsors to turbo-boost your career.
Are you looking to up level your negotiation skills?
Please enjoy my TEDx Ocala talk
- Rise of the Feminine Voice as the Key to Our Future-