I have had lots of mentors throughout my life that have shaped both my personal and professional development. And as I get older and my career evolves, I continue to have a need for mentors.
However, finding the right mentor can be hard!
Fortunately, technology is not only making it easier to connect with potential mentors, but also changing our understanding of mentoring all together. Traditionally, mentors were found at work, and as subordinates, we had limited access to them in addition to potential conflicts of interests.
E-mentoring has been around for a while, but in recent years it has begun to evolve. Today we can utilize a wide range of technology to assist each other to grow and learn in a safe and supportive mentoring relationship.
Today, organizations use sophisticated mentoring software programs, like Chronos or Insala, to match mentors and mentees. These programs allow the mentor and mentee to write profiles and review potential matches. This has helped mentees play a much larger role in the selection of their mentor, as well as facilitated better matches.
Similarly, there has been an increasing number of mentoring websites similar to mine, that provide 1:1 mentoring and coaching for students and professionals. For those of you interested in STEM, check these sites out:
These types of websites are creating a new culture of sharing and learning among new and seasoned professionals. Now as mentees you can cast a wider net and interact with people you might not otherwise have access to as mentors. It also creates a much more democratic and transparent selection and matching process.
Not only is the mentee is in the driver’s seat in the selection and matching process, but also by having a mentor external from your workplace the power and politic dynamics are removed.
To take it a step further, now social network sites like LinkedIn create an “anytime, anywhere, anyone” mentoring environment. As a mentee, you can access a vast pool of mentors, anytime, and from anywhere.
LinkedIn is one-stop-shop for either a more formal 1:1 mentoring relationship or something informal. Don’t just use LinkedIn as a place to post your professional profile, use it actively and intentionally to:
- Make connections
- Build relationships
- Find resources
- Get 1:1 and peer/group mentoring
Let’s get started!
Step 1: Have an All-Star profile
Create a profile that is searchable, professional, and personable. LinkedIn is not on “online resume” site, it is a “networking” site. Use the Background Summary to share your story, journey, and passion.
People want to know who you are as much as they want to know what you can do.
Use key search terms in your Professional Headline and in your Experience summaries. You want potential mentors (and employers) to be able find you too!
Step 2: Make Targeted Connections
LinkedIn steers you in the direction of potential connections so use them. On both the Home and Profile page, LinkedIn offers you a list of People You May Know and People Who Have Viewed Your Profile.
Review the lists and reach out to people who you think may be great connections or mentors.
But don’t just click connect! Make it personal. When you connect, you have the opportunity to personalize the message.
So do it!
Here are some examples:
Hi [insert name],
Just going through my connections and you came up as someone I may know. I’ve had a quick look at your profile ad I’d love to learn more about what you do.
[insert your name]
PS Just go ahead and click “ignore” if you would rather not connect.
Hi [insert their name],
I see that you’ve viewed my profile. I love to connect with others in [insert field of interest]. Let’s connect.
[insert your name]
Don’t ask for anything in the first correspondence! Just share relevant information, ask their opinion, and build up trust and rapport.
LinkedIn Groups are growing in number, activity, and access. With the number of groups available, you will be able to find a variety of groups to meet you diverse developmental needs or fields of interest.
LinkedIn Groups encourage and support peer interaction and learning when used effectively and consistently. These groups are a fantastic forum for informal mentoring which is casual and unstructured, situational, serendipitous, and self selected mentoring. They support some very rich and dynamic discussions that inspire learning and growth.
These type of interactions in LinkedIn groups can be as equally as effective as traditional mentoring relationships. But, finding the right group can be tricky!
When selecting a group consider the following:
- Size Matters: Choose a Group that has a lot of members, this gives you a larger pool of mentors to draw from and is likely more active.
- Activity Level: You want to be part of a Group that is engaged with one another. When you search a group, LinkedIn identifies the level of group activity by labeling it Active, Very Active, or lists the number of discussions the Group has had recently.
- Discussion Quality: Unfortunately, there are lots of Groups that people just use for self-promotion. Avoid these Groups and target ones that are having great discussions and sharing information.
Once you have joined some Groups (10 makes you more searchable), jump in and start participating. Post questions, follow discussions, and offer feedback on shared resources.
Most importantly, share your knowledge and expertise. Don’t limit yourself to being a mentee, you can also be a mentor.
You can also use Groups to make a 1:1 connection with a potential mentor. LinkedIn allows you to connect with other Group members so if and when you come across an individual who you think you could learn a lot from, reach out to them.
Hi [insert name],
I just came across your profile in the [name of Group]. I’ve had a quick look at your profile ad I’d love to learn more about what you do.
[insert your name]
PS Just go ahead and click “ignore” if you would rather not connect
What do you do once you’ve connected with someone?
Get to know them!
Once someone has accepted your connection request from People You May Know, People Who Have Viewed Your Profile, or a Group, send a message to follow up and learn more about them.
From their profile just click Send a Message, you can write something like this:
Hello [insert name]
Thank you for connecting here on LinkedIn. It is always great to connect with other [insert field of interest].
I like to learn as much as I can about the people in my LinkedIn network, and I also like to refer them business wherever possible.
So please let me know a little bit of information about you and what makes a good prospect for you so I can keep that in mind for potential referral opportunities.
Thanks again for connecting and I look forward to learning more about you and your business.
[insert your name]
An effective mentoring relationship requires two people committed to learning and a mentee who is motivated and open to change. You will find a host of these people in your LinkedIn network and Groups.
E-mentoring has facilitated a new approach to mentoring that allows you to define your mentoring relationship. Now you can access mentors in real time and find solutions to challenges you are facing in the present.
You no longer have to limit yourself; you can have more than one mentor and custom design your mentoring needs with multiple mentors who meet your different learning needs.
LinkedIn fosters these connections and create endless possibilities to develop mentoring relationships virtually.
Want to know more about finding and selecting a mentor?
For more on LinkedIn:
Watch my upcoming social media training LIVE online here!
And connect with me on LinkedIn, just go to: http://www.linkedin.com/in/tamarathorpe1