What's the best way to find a senior techie mentor?
Monday, August 22, 2022
76% of people think that having a mentor is important, but only one in three people is currently working with one. Mentorship can bring enormous career- and life-changing benefits: it expands your network, increases the likelihood of a promotion, helps you avoid repeating old mistakes of others, and holds you accountable to your goals. In short: it speeds up your personal development. So, why doesn’t everyone have a mentor?
Sadly, unlike an ergonomic chair, a paycheck, and—hopefully—some health perks, a mentor isn’t automatically included with a job contract. Employees and freelancers must decide for themselves what kind of mentor they hope to find, draw up a plan, and proactively search for the right mentor. Here we explain all you need to know about finding a tech mentor.
Table of contents:
- What actually is a mentor?
- Why should I find a senior mentor?
- What to look for in a potential mentor: 4 key questions
- Connecting with a senior mentor: practical tips!
- Where should I look for a senior mentor?
What actually is a mentor?
There’s a very simple, logical answer to kick this off before we dive into more detail. Growing up, most of us learn in shared classrooms where teachers and peers support us. In further education, we take part in group seminars where we are supported by professors and friends. And still, further, we apply for internships where we shadow future colleagues, and learn from a team. Our personal development is collaborative. The professional life begins, and bam: we are left to navigate mostly as individuals. What happened to the support network, the collaboration, and the motivation?
A mentor can be thought of as someone who becomes a part of your support network, offering a little continuity to the lifelong journey of learning and personal development. Often occupying a more advanced position or with more experience under their belt, a mentor is someone you have a regular conversation with to share questions, goals, and challenges so that they can help you get to where you want to go in your career.
Do you ever wish you could go back a few years and give old you a few tips, a warning, or even a compliment? A senior mentor can provide this luxury of time travel; you can hear about previous successes and challenges they have experienced. Learning from any mistakes they may have made will help you avoid them while learning from their achievements will give you insight into which steps you might want to take next.
Why should I find a senior mentor?
Finding the right mentor is a surefire way to enhance not only your personal development but your career achievements. Forbes shares some eye-watering stats as compiled by Sun Microsystems, regarding a five-year career-comparison study:
- Mentors and mentees alike were approximately 20% more likely to get a raise than those outside of any mentoring system.
- 25% of mentees and 28% of mentors received a raise, compared with only 5% of managers who were not mentors.
- Mentees were promoted FIVE times more often than those without mentors.
- Mentors were SIX times more likely to have received a promotion to a high position.
To add to the above, mentorship is not only valuable for the professional and personal development of individuals. as iterated in the article Why do we need more women in tech, seeing more women role models in the tech field will attract more female applicants. This will enrich the available talent in the hiring pool, which is desperately needed to fill many currently-open STEM positions.
What to look for in a potential mentor: 4 key questions
So, you’ve decided to look for a mentor. How do you begin this process? Where do you start? First up, you need to know what kind of person to approach.
It’s easy to assume that an excellent senior mentor for your personal development is simply someone who has the job title that you want, but there is a little bit more to the process than that. When considering the right mentor for you, ask yourself:
- Are they good listeners?
Do they simply match your questions and concerns with their own stories, or do they take time to listen to your actual needs? Quick responses are not always the most meaningful. Look for someone who listens, considers, and asks questions back to you.
- Are they within your industry?
A mentor working in the same industry as you is a big game-changer. Having a broad and diverse range of friends is great for seeking rich life advice, but finding a mentor in your specific field opens so many doors for your professional and personal development. A good match may be able to introduce you to some pivotal industry contacts, as well as help you concretely with things like applications and pitches.
- Where is their professional position in relation to your goals?
A senior mentor with a few years more experience than you can help you get to where you want to go; they can hold you accountable to your goals while offering practical tips and tricks that they remember going through themselves. A senior mentor whose position is, for example, five or six career steps away from you might seem appealing—imagine learning from the CEO!—but this could be less beneficial in the long run. You want to find someone who can offer you realistic help and connections for the career steps you are going to take in the near future.
And, most crucially,
- Are they available?
A mentor with a wealth of knowledge, experience, and advice is only good for you if they can commit to sharing that knowledge, experience, and advice with you. If you approach a potential senior mentor and they already seem distracted or preoccupied, it could be worth moving on to the next person on your list. Whilst it’s understandable that everyone is busy, the mentor/mentee relationship will have to lean on a certain level of mutual commitment in order to be healthy and gain results for your personal development.
Connecting with a senior mentor: practical tips!
Keep these tips in mind as you draw up your plans for finding a senior mentor:
- Take your time—finding the right match is better than finding a quick match!
- Just ask- don’t hesitate to ask for help! Many people end up without a mentor because they are afraid or embarrassed to reach out. Remember: by being straightforward and confident, you can show a keen appetite for learning and demonstrate dedication to your personal development.
- Be specific—a conversation can begin anywhere but, as sales transformational leader, Nikki Wilton explains, “it’s handy if there’s a challenge to talk about”; a particular question or thought can really get the ball rolling. Introduce yourself with concrete questions or goals where possible.
- Be present—you never know where you might find your perfect match. Go to panels, events, work socials, and online - and offline networking events. Bernie Laureden, vice president of business operations at BloomTech, states that “A lot of times, you find community by putting yourself out there, being in new spaces, listening to new perspectives.”
Where should I look for a senior mentor?
Mentoring relationships are built on trust, willingness, and connection, so it’s worth investing a little bit of time and research into your initial search. Once you’ve established the kind of professional that you hope to connect with, it’s time to get active. Where will you find your match? Try looking:
- Inside AND outside of your own organisation
As Bloom Institute of Technology points out, it’s worth expanding your horizons to companies and organisations outside of your own professional experience. If your next career move or step in your personal development takes you elsewhere, it can be helpful to have an external mentor who can remain objective and consistent.
- Word of mouth
Think about the people who inspire you at work every day; your mentor could already be a close contact. Mentorship relationships evolve naturally for 61% of people. You might not have to specifically ask someone to mentor you, they could also offer themselves. This means it’s extra important to take your personal development and work performance seriously; senior, powerful mentors will be looking for candidates who show potential, willingness to learn, and drive.
Whether you are a recent graduate looking to take your first career step, or a seasoned professional hoping for a change, the RightBrains platform provides a safe and inspiring space for career and personal development. The mentoring programme facilitates 1:1 matching based on digital interests, while the events, Tech Talks, and inspirational stories can point you in the direction of some of today’s most inspirational women in tech. Become a member today it's free and only takes a minute!