Are you looking for a mentor? Look no further (no, I’m not offering my services but I am offering some tips). Over the years I’ve had many mentors and been part of formal mentoring programs through San Jose State University, the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), and the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (CALSA). And along the way, I’ve learned a thing or two.
Know what you want. When seeking a mentor, look to those who you can really learn from. What skills do they have that draws you to them? Tell them that. Explain what you want from a mentor and what specific areas you would like to focus on.
Focus on the skills. When you are seeking a mentor, consider those with skill sets different than yours. Have you received feedback that you need work in empathy? Patience? Organization? If so, seek someone who is strong in those areas. Look beyond their role and look more at their skill set.
Take a risk. Even leaders like Sheryl Sandberg have talked about the role of mentors and the need to have someone really push you. Find those in your network and beyond. There are great mentors out there who might be a colleague of a colleague, outside of your organization that might afford you a bit more privacy. It’s something to consider.
Know how to say thank you. Certainly, I mean this needs to be sincere, but you’d be surprised how many people ask for support and mentoring and never utter the word thank you. A mentor will be giving of her/his time and energy so consider something to show your gratitude. When you meet, pay for the coffee. Same for a lunch meeting, unless the mentor insists. A $10 coffee card for the holidays? A handful of daffodils or tulips in the spring? An orchid from Trader Joe’s? Their time and wisdom has value – honor it.
And while you’re at finding, selecting, and thanking, remember that giving breeds more giving. Learning from others does the same. As you are climbing up the ladder, remember to reach back and pull up those behind you. It’s the gift that keeps giving!