The First Step to Finding a Mentor is to Ask

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By: Becci Hart, President of Intermark Public Relations

This article was originally published on

Early in my career, I had a great mentor.  She encouraged me, gave me excellent advice and introduced me to people who made a difference in my career.  I don’t know that I ever formally went to her and asked her to be my mentor, I think the relationship just evolved over time.  However, I can’t say enough about how much of an impact she had on my career and even my life.  I have yet to pay that forward to a mentee.

Frankly, I think it is because no one has ever asked me to be their mentor.  A study by Catalyst found that 67% of women said they were in the same boat.  No one had ever asked them.  Is it really that simple?

March is Women’s History Month and as we think about all the strides women have made, we must be aware that there is still a long way to go.  Women make up almost half of the workforce, yet you will only find a female CEO in 4.6% of the S&P 500 companies and they comprise just 20% of corporate boards in S&P 500 companies.  If you look at this dispassionately and, say, just from a math perspective, I don’t think anyone would disagree that there is change that needs to happen here.

 Mentoring can prepare the next generation to take their place in the C-suite and on corporate and non-profit boards.  The first step is the ask.  Don’t be afraid to ask someone to be your mentor.  It might make you feel better to know that 71% of women reported that they always accept invitations to be formal mentors at work when asked.  For you mentors-to-be, always accept when asked.  It keeps coming back to being asked.

 I also think, when possible, companies should institute a formal mentoring program.  These take the “risk of rejection” out of asking. They also provide training on how to make the relationship beneficial for both parties, since many are not aware of how to really get the most out of the mentor/mentee relationship.

 A formal program also showcases a proverbial stake in the ground by the company.  This says to an employee, “You are important to us and we want to help you grow.”  In today’s workplace, this is extremely relevant as most younger employees are interested in how they can continue to stretch professionally.  It’s not about company loyalty, it’s about what you can do for their career.

There are also organizations like Momentum who offer mentoring programs to members.  They aren’t alone.  If you are looking for a mentor, put the time in to find the right one.  Look on LinkedIn, talk to people you respect for recommendations.  There are a million different ways to find the right mentor.  And then ask.  (Surely you saw that coming…)

 I know for myself, I intend to say yes.  I want to repay the debt of time, energy and patience that my mentor invested in me.