The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How can you convince someone to be your mentor?” is written by Joshua Hebert, CEO of Magellan Jets.
My career path was by no means a straight line. I went from finance to sales to private aviation, and I couldn’t have done it without learning from both mentors and mentees along the way. Those relationships are as valuable as gold, and can last a lifetime if formed with a solid foundation.
That doesn’t mean the relationships are always easygoing—far from it. I remember from my days in sales that one of my best mentors used to call me out constantly in front of coworkers. After one particularly tough day, he explained that he did it because he knew I could take it, and that I always seemed to grow from the experience. That struck a chord with me and it guided my decisions as a business owner and mentor myself.
If you’re looking for a mentor who can make an impact, remember that you can’t find one on a sign-up sheet or matchmaking service. Before asking for their help, you need to convince them you’ll be a worthy partner. You should keep a few things in mind:
Show them you can handle a challenge
Too many mentees want to have their accomplishments praised and told how great they are. A valuable mentor won’t be interested in that kind of relationship; they’ll know how you’re doing when they see you respond to criticism. Show them you want a challenge and that you can take it when you get beat up at work. Nothing shows grit better than your response when you get your lunch handed to you—instead of hiding away, you learn from it.
Embrace their core values
Especially if you work at the same company, show a potential mentor that you not only get their core values, but you embrace them. At Magellan Jets, our values are accepting responsibility, caring deeply about those around us, constantly improving, challenging the ordinary, and keeping our customers’ safety always in mind. Following those are important to all employees, but if you wanted to be my mentee, you’d need to take it to the next level and really live those values.
Just as we value caring deeply about others at the office, we expect the same from our employees in their personal lives. If a potential mentee shared a story in which they exhibited this quality in a personal setting, I’d be more warmed up to the idea of becoming their mentor.
Read between the lines
Show your prospective mentor that you don’t always need to be told exactly what to do. Listen to some of their stories and tell them how you relate, even if it’s on a different level. Some of the best mentors I work with don’t give me a lot of direct advice about my specific situation. Instead, they share experiences that relate to my issues and let that sink in for me.
I once had a mentor who told me about a deal he walked away from, even though it promised to be profitable. When he tried to tie the deal to his vision, something seemed off. Even though my challenge at the time had nothing to do with sizing up a deal, that really resonated with me. You need to show that you can take a mentor’s past experiences and draw your own conclusions about what lessons they hold.
The most important thing is to build a strong mentor-mentee relationship. I’ve experienced some mentoring programs that are more transactional in nature, but I haven’t found them to be effective. I look for mentees who relate to my views and values, and who show me that they want to change and grow. If they fulfill these criteria, they’re more likely to convince me to be their mentor. Without that underpinning, the relationship will never last.