Project Management Careers Q&A – Finding a Mentor

I think I need a mentor to help me progress in my role as a project manager, do you have any advice on what steps I should be taking to find the right person?

There are three main factors involved when looking for a mentor.

First of all, you need to think about what exactly you are looking to get out of the mentoring relationship. What kind of relationship do you need, is it career advancement or more day-to-day support and advice? Think about the key areas of the job that you are looking to improve on and what you think the outcome of a successful mentoring relationship might look like for you. Understanding what a good outcome would look like for you will help when trying to find the right person.

The second factor is finding someone who has the right level of experience. Chances are you have already begun to think about the people who are around you, both internally in your organisation and externally.

The third crucial factor is finding someone who has the time available. Time coupled with a personal interest in providing mentoring are perhaps the hardest things to find in a good mentor so the way you make your approach will be important.

Start by looking internally within your organisation. Approach your own manager first to find out their thoughts on potential mentors. It’s likely that they will have suggestions you haven’t previously thought of. Consider approaching the PMO (if your organisation has one) and ask them for suggestions. The PMO work closely with people across the organisation and will also have a good idea about the level of experience and personalities of potential mentors. If you have already identified some potential mentors and have done your groundwork in terms of what you are looking to get out of the relationship, you need to make the approach and state your case.

The mentor-mentee relationship should have a structure. There should be a first meeting to set up objectives. There should be time set aside that suits both parties. There should be goals and an understanding of what happens with the relationship in the longer term when the goals are met. Potential mentors may feel much more comfortable and likely to take up a mentoring relationship if it was treated like a mini project, with a definite beginning and end.

 

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Comments

  1. My experience is that you need someone who is a critical friend, but there is a definite need to be able to give examples of situations on both sides. I have a great mentoring relationship with one of my ex-bosses in which we have agreed regular meetings with a specific topic and we talk round that theme for the allocated time. This gives an excellent opportunity to talk and listen equally, share ideas on concepts, and advise up and down. I appreciate the leader’s time because I know that it’s really in demand from others and they seem to enjoy discussing the topics too.

    One thing that I think is key, is that you can have a number of mentors/mentees, and each interaction that you have gives you both an opportunity to reflect and grow as individuals.

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