It is in our social DNA to want a mentor. As little kids, our parents mentor us on the basics of life. In school, we are mentored by teachers and coaches who want to impart their wisdom to us. Then, suddenly, we’re thrust out into the world of adulthood, and most of us are simply left to sink or swim.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Personal connections are the best way to find a job and the fastest way to move up quickly in the government sector, so why not take it a step further and find a mentor.
Of course, that’s easier said than done, right? Do you just go up to a respected colleague and ask him or her to mentor you? Wouldn’t most people be taken aback? Finding the right mentor-mentee relationship can be done, but you’ve got to know what you want from the relationship and how to make it happen.
Make a list: It may seem silly, but think of what you really want your potential mentor to help you with. Are you looking for job tips to get on the track for management? Or for suggestions on how to dress better and ask for raises? Who you ask will depend on the answers to these questions, and once you know what you want, you can make a second list – who you want. Make sure that the lists line up in terms of those people actually being able to provide you with the help you desire.
Check with HR: No one goes to HR first, but you may find that there are actually mentoring programs already in place. Whether or not it works for you is another question, but it’s certainly worth going to see what your options are.
Join industry-related groups: A mentor doesn’t have to be someone at your current agency, and in fact, there are a number of benefits to having someone in your field to talk to who doesn’t have the same familiarity with the politics at your current job. Not to mention the fact that sometimes moving ahead can mean moving away, and it will be nice to have someone close in your industry at another agency if you decide to take that leap in your career.
Church, alumni, and other groups: Most people don’t think of their personal, non-work network when they look for someone to mentor them in their career, but you never know where you might find that elusive person with the right skill-set that you get along with. Look around in all areas of your life and see if anyone fits the bill.
Offer to mentor someone yourself: Oddly, one of the best ways to meet mentors is to become one. You can use your mentoring as an opportunity to meet other people who might have valuable things to teach you without formalizing the relationship until you decide you want to. Plus, you never know when the mentee might become the mentor and you’ll learn something from the person you’re helping.