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 Tuval Chomut, CEO of Clicktale.
Whether it’s Yoda to Luke Skywalker or Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, a mentor is essential to helping you succeed in your professional life. Sure, you can go it alone, but why not benefit from the years of experience and wisdom of others who have gone before you? At the same time, finding the right person and persuading them to be your mentor is a challenging prospect.
In my experience, in order to find a mentor, you need to mentor yourself first. I’m not talking about loading up on every kind of self-help management book you can find. Rather, you need to do some deep thinking to demonstrate to your potential mentor that you’re worth the investment—and are not just going to spend your sessions gazing and nodding at them starry eyed.
At Clicktale, every new recruit gets paired with a mentor through a buddy system. There are three key things we advise mentees to follow in order to find not just a mentor, but a long-term ally who will be at your side as you move upward in your career.
Know where you want to be
The worst thing to a potential mentor is a mentee who does not know where they are heading. No mentor—however kind or well-meaning—wants to spend valuable time wafting through meandering stream-of-consciousness pondering about your future ambitions. If you want to get ahead, you need a crystal-clear vision of where you want to be. Even if you don’t know exactly where you want to go, first try to narrow down your areas of interest—eventually you’ll work with the mentor to crystalize your end point. You need to communicate that you are dedicated to putting in every ounce of your energy required to realize your goals. This will make your mentor feel that their time is being channeled toward concrete progress.
Be curious and hungry to learn
We all know people who are incredibly driven and operate according to tight schedules and plans. If that’s you, your eagerness is commendable. But a mentor does not want to give advice to an automaton, and mentoring is not a shortcut key you press in order to get to the next stage. Instead, when appealing to a potential mentor, emphasize that while you may run a tight ship during work time, you’re open to new possibilities, approaches, and avenues in order to make progress.
In the high-tech world, we’re always adapting to new technological advances. Over my career, many people both inside and outside of the company have come to me with entrepreneurial ideas, and I personally mentor about 10 people on a regular basis. These aren’t people who report directly to me, but if they are out-of-the-box thinkers, I love helping them unleash their potential. Curiosity is key, because it means the person won’t be rigid with their plans, and is more willing to adapt as necessary.
Let’s face it, humility is not the top skill taught in business school. Businesspeople are taught to promote themselves, and make their voices heard and impact felt. Yet being humble doesn’t negate any of that—it actually conveys respect to the person who is giving up their valuable time to invest in you. As a mentor, I love to work with the people who don’t come with preconceived notions about the business and are flexible with new ways of doing things.
I wasn’t always this way. At the start of my career, I had a mentor who encouraged me to make big changes in my company. At first I was hesitant to take his advice. But he knew more about the business than I did, so eventually I decided to follow his guidance. In doing so, I found a way to propose solutions that made a big difference for the business.
Finding a mentor can be tough. Once you’ve succeeded, don’t forget the most valuable mantra of all (which is from Yoda himself): “Pass on what you have learned.”