Mentoring is an important career strategy regardless of where you are on the career ladder. Yet finding the right mentor can be challenging. Although some organizations have formal mentoring programs and assign mentors, research shows that you may receive the best mentoring experience if you find your own mentor. As you begin the process of trying to identify who might be the best mentor for you, use the following 5 steps:
- Ask yourself what you want from a mentor and the mentoring experience.
Before you approach anyone to mentor you, it is important to think about what you want from the mentor. Are you looking for career guidance, personal development, a shadowing experience, networking opportunities or guidance on how to handle a difficult professional situation.
- Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses
It is important to choose a mentor that you will find easy to talk with so think about what personality type might complement your own. Identifiy your strengths and weaknesses. Look for a mentor who has traits that you would like to develop in your self.
- Decide on what qualities you want in a mentor
A nurse leader mentor should be someone that you admire and feel is an excellent role model for professional behavior. He or she should be an excellent listener and someone who will be honest with you. Although your mentor can be of any age, someone who is 5 to 10 years ahead of you in their nursing leadership journey can provide the best guidance.
- Consider the availability of the mentor
Although you may be tempted to choose a nationally known leader to mentor you, it is important to consider geographic proximity. Think about the ease of getting together to talk. You will also want to think about whether you want a mentor from within the organization where you currently work.
- Make a list of potential nurse leader mentors
As a last step, identify potential mentors who match the requirements of that you have identified above. Think about nurse leaders
you have worked with or nurse leaders that you have met in professional organizations. Ask others for suggestions. Learn as much as you can about the mentors that you are considering. Don’t assume that because they are nationally known that they wouldn’t be interested in mentoring you. It never hurts to ask.
Once you have identified a potential mentor, ask him or her to lunch to discuss the idea of mentoring. A personal approach is always best but if they don’t live geographically close, you can make your request by email, letter or telephone. Prepare an agenda for your first meeting and develop questions you will ask. Explain why you have chosen them and what type of support you need. Remember that mentoring is a two-way street so talk about what you can bring to the mentoring relationship. If a mentor turns you down, don’t take it personally. Be sure to thank them for considering it and ask for other suggestions for mentors. Managing awkward situations well will make a good impression on the nurse leader even if he or she does not mentor you.
It is important to respect your mentor’s time. If a mentor offers a suggestions, be sure to follow through on them. Be willing to do some stretch assignments that demonstrate you are committed to the mentoring experience. A good mentor will push you outside your comfort zone and help you achieve bigger things than you ever imagined for yourself. Be sure to show appreciation.
At some point in your career, it will be your turn to give back. Mentoring is a gift and one that hopefully you will eventually pass on by mentoring others.