Career Advice

How to Find a Supportive Mentorship Network

By: Aidan Smith
Jul 12, 2021 • 6 min read

Let’s Talk About Finding a Mentorship Network

With the country opening back up again, there are countless job opportunities and positions open for job-seekers. Finding a mentorship network is more important now than ever before! There are countless ways to take advantage of a mentor and use this support system to build a successful career. In this blog, we will explore how to go about finding a mentorship network to support your job search journey!

woman writing on table

Informal and Formal Mentorships; What’s the Difference?

An important thing to keep in mind about mentorships and their networks is that they often fall into two categories, formal and informal. Let’s explore the difference between the two!

Formal mentorship is often associated with on-the-job training, volunteer training, or mentoring by higher-level members of formal social clubs and organizations. The Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Freemasons, and more are all organizations where formal mentoring can be found. Mentors in these situations and organizations are always members of management, employees on the job before you got there, and senior members of an organization.

Informal mentorship is often provided by peers, friends, and family members. Contexts where this is the case often include family gatherings, holiday preparation, and related activities, and informal social events with some semblance of leadership. A mentor in this situation is often someone who has been participating the longest, and can provide advice on, say, the best fishing spots or the best way to organize the decorations for a holiday.

Common Types of Mentorships

UC Davis lists the three most common types of formal mentorships. Depending on the job you are applying for or getting, the training process might include one or more of these mentorship types.

Traditional One-on-one Mentoring

A mentee and mentor are matched, either through a program or on their own. Mentee-mentor partners participate in a mentoring relationship with structure and timeframe of their making or as established by a formal mentoring program.

Distance Mentoring

A mentoring relationship in which the two parties (or group) are in different locations. Sometimes called “virtual” mentoring. This can be a helpful option for anyone who is practicing social distancing or hopes to connect with a mentor from afar!

Group Mentoring

Beyond the types mentioned by UC Davis, there are a number of other common types of mentorships. They tend to be more informal than formal, though they can fit into a formal mentoring relationship. Columbia University Medical Center has a good list to consider.

Guide – Imparts general knowledge and experience; teaches a particular skill set generally in an area in which s/he is more experienced or skilled

Ally – Acts as a sounding board / straight talker; gives the mentee a reality check on his/her ideas, solutions, and strategies

Catalyst – Serves as an entrepreneur / creative motivator; asks questions to spark new approaches and business ideas

Savvy insider – Makes introductions/connections to people in different departments/divisions and across levels; provides information about organizational priorities, culture, or topics

Advocate / Champion – Speaks favorably about the mentee to senior leaders and others; Makes mentee aware of opportunities within the organization

Role model – Provides access so that the mentee can observe his/her on-the-job behaviors or approaches so that the mentee can learn from his/her example how to do things effectively

Advisor – Provides advice on a particular situation”

Understanding the types of mentorship and their nature as formal or informal can help you in the search for a good mentorship network or relationship.

man wearing white and black plaid button-up sports shirt pointing the silver MacBook

How and Where to Look for Mentorship Networks

Now, you might be asking yourself; where can I find a mentorship network? It is best to apply a cross-search of formal or informal mentorships. This strategy will help you approach your mentorship search in a focused and simplistic way. As a result, your mentorship search will be much less stressful!

A valuable resource to help streamline the mentorship network search is the National Mentoring Resource Center. Their website has a comprehensive and detailed database cataloging a wide variety of resources available for any questions you may have.

Make Mentorship Goals. What Are You Looking For In a Mentor?

In your search for a mentor, it is important to have an idea of what you are looking for in one. Consider compiling a list of preferred areas of skill, experience, and possibly personality traits that you would want in a mentor. Be aware that what you want in a mentor and what a mentor wants in a mentee may not always match, but that’s okay!

As is the case with everything else in life, negotiation is key. Discuss with your possible mentor about what they can teach you, and what they cannot. Sometimes you will need or want more than one mentor depending on your focus. It’s perfectly fine to have more than one mentor. In fact, your mentorship network will only grow and benefit from having more than one mentor!

Some People You Meet Might Not Want To Be a Mentor – and That’s Okay! 

When you find someone who initially doesn’t want to be a mentor, don’t give up hope. There is still a chance that that person might be a good mentor for you. Here are a couple pieces of advice for when you go about asking the person to be a mentor.

1.) In asking your possible mentor, be bold and confident, yet not authoritative. Remember, the mentor is superior in whatever situation you are in with them. They will likely be expecting you to approach the situation with an understanding of that superior position.

2.) The mentor and you have your own lives to live. When asking, you should mention schedule malleability to their lives and schedules. Make the case that this will help them become a better mentor for you and that you will be a better mentee for them.

How a Mentorship Network Can Help you Outside of your Career Focus

While your focus on a mentorship network may be to help you or someone you know get a job, or get further on-the-job training, mentorship networks can help outside of a career focus as well! Mentors can be of great value in your personal and professional life.

Informal mentoring can prove to be invaluable in social circles, depending on the mentor’s connections. Furthermore, finding a mentorship network based around your hobbies can improve not only your skill in them but also lead to future friendships. Networking is key!

two women talking while looking at laptop computer

Using Social Media To Find a Mentor (LinkedIn, University Alumni Network)

While normal research is all well and good, Social Media is also a useful resource in finding mentors. In the professional career world, focus on profile websites, LinkedIn, JobGet, Handshake, etc. Consider your University’s Alumni Network as well. The people in that network are often interested in the work of the undergraduates as it will benefit the university and yourself. In fact, they might even be more willing than others to give you a hand!

For informal mentorships, consider the traditional social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, TikTok, Discord, etc. These are a great way to get to know someone on a personal level outside of the corporate world. The personal connection through social media is a great way to secure an informal mentorship.

We hope you have found this knowledge refreshing and useful for your mentorship network search! Best of luck!

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