Whether learning basic skills or perfecting self-actualization, self-improvement of any type typically requires more than introspection and self-reflection; it hinges on the wisdom, inspiration, or guidance of people who offer different perspectives. We tap into others’ expertise by reading books, watching YouTube videos, and attending courses. We pay coaches, consultants, and instructors to tell us what to do and teach us how to do it. But when it comes to recruiting a mentor, many of us hesitate.
So why—if we’re willing to take the advice of strangers and pay experts for their support—wouldn’t we jump at the chance to work with someone who is choosing to help us in-kind?
In my work with women in all types and levels of business, I see three self-limiting obstacles that commonly get in the way of recruiting a mentor:
Unwilling to ask for help
Think about the last time you wanted professional guidance from someone. Where did you turn? For many of us, it’s difficult to ask for help from another person unless we have established or expect some reciprocity. Limiting ourselves to that category means we may rely on a convenient option at the expense of a more useful one. And, for some high achievers, simply asking for help feels like failure.
Unsure about the goal
It’s hard to enlist someone to help drive an outcome if we don’t know what that outcome is. This can turn into a Catch-22 if we think of our prospective mentor as the person who will help define our goal. A lack of clarity ends up keeping us stuck.
Concern for the mentor
Mentoring someone can feel rewarding, but we know it is also most definitely an investment. And how many people in our network do we know who have excess time or energy? As women we’re especially considerate of others’ and may refrain from reaching out to prospective mentors out of fear that we will overload them.
So, with these three obstacles standing between us and recruiting a mentor, what’s a high-achieving woman to do?
Embrace the discomfort
Asking for help puts us in a state of vulnerability. It’s a gesture that says, “I need you” or “You know better than me.” Rather than associating vulnerability with being “less than,” think of it as an act of courage—a trait that defines the best leaders.
Define what you want
Instead of trying to figure out where you want to end up as a result of mentoring, consider why you are interested in your prospective mentor. What particular expertise or attribute would you like to tap into? When and for how long are you asking for them to commit? Get clear on what you want them to give to you and communicate that.
Make it about them too
Any time you are trying to influence someone, it is important to make sure your recruitment pitch is tailored to what your prospective mentor values. Do you share a similar passion or mission? How might you become part of their legacy? Let them know that you will be sensitive to their time and, of course, always express your gratitude.
Miranda Wilcox is a former board member and president of RWN, as well as a fierce advocate for improving personal happiness, professional impact, and team performance. As a Professional Certified Coach, instructor, mentor, speaker, and founder of Thrive Potential, LLC, Miranda helps emerging leaders, executives, and organizations actualize potential and thrive.
RWN’s upcoming Spring Symposium will address mentoring as well as other topics united by the theme of “Level Up: Advancing Your Career From Any Point”. Register now.