3 tips to help you find a mentor in the hybrid workplace
By Lisa Rabasca Roepe
Kelly Jackson, a 27-year-old account director at Ogilvy in Chicago, credits her success with developing mentoring relationships throughout her career. Three years ago, when Jackson was a public relations manager at the Philadelphia-based marketing firm Allen & Gerritsen, she asked three top executives at the firm to be her mentors—to answer her questions, offer advice and help her navigate the workplace. Those relationships helped to advance her career.
“Most of my mentors have not been my direct manager or boss, so they’ve given me unfiltered responses or advice when it comes to climbing the ladder or landing promotions,” Jackson says. For example, she says, mentors have helped her to role-play asking her boss for a raise or promotion. “This allows me to go into conversations prepared and ready to clearly articulate my needs and answer tough questions,” Jackson said.
Research shows that employees with mentors get promoted faster, earn more money and are happier at work. In fact, 71% of people with a mentor say their company provides them with good opportunities to advance in their career, compared with 47% of those without a mentor, according to a 2019 CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Survey.
While it may seem daunting to find a mentor when you’re not physically going into an office every day, Jackson says there are some advantages to asking someone to mentor you in a virtual or hybrid workplace. “It certainly is much easier to make contact with people and schedule coffee chats over Zoom because no one has to travel to a physical location amidst their busy schedules,” she says.
The biggest challenge, Jackson says, will be developing deep relationships with your mentors when you’re not meeting in person. For instance, she says, it might take a bit more time to get to know someone, read his or her body language and find that personal connection when you are meeting virtually.
Here are three tips for finding a mentor in a virtual or hybrid environment.
Be clear about what you need from your mentor
In order to find the right person to connect with as a mentor, be specific about what you want to learn from your mentor, Jackson says. For instance, do you want to learn a specific skill, such as how to manage budgets, or are you looking to learn a soft skill like how to answer questions on the fly during meetings? A mentor can also help you set goals, develop a 1-year or 5-year plan, or help you to see the bigger picture.
In a virtual environment, you might need to do a bit more prep and self-reflection to determine your goals for your mentoring sessions, Jackson says. Knowing what you hope to gain from the experience will help you narrow down your search for a mentor.
Make it easy for your mentor to say yes
Before you even ask someone to be your mentor, have a plan for how often you want to meet, what topics you want to discuss and why you think they are the best person to mentor you. “Make it hard for them to say no,” Jackson says. Even if you don’t follow the plan you outlined, it’s a good idea to develop a clear plan from the beginning so both you and your mentor know what will be involved and what you’re hoping to accomplish, she says.
Commit to your mentoring sessions
Virtual meetings can feel like they are easy to reschedule but avoid that temptation, Jackson says. Once a mentoring session is canceled, it’s easy for them to permanently slip off your calendar. Be sure to follow through on what you and your mentor discuss and show them that you’re acting on his or her feedback. “You’ll only get out of your mentoring sessions what you put in,” Jackson says.
Don’t forget to thank your mentors. A handwritten note is an easy way to show your gratitude. And don’t underestimate your ability to help your mentor make professional connections that could potentially boost their career.
Although finding a mentor in a virtual environment might take a bit more legwork on your part to figure out what type of assistance you want, and to find the right person to help you, the benefits of having a mentor are undeniable.
Check out our recent blog on Mentorship and Promotion!