Today’s article was written by Laura Vanderkam.
Many smart women know that proper mentoring can pave the way to success. But while many companies have mentoring programs—and ideally your supervisor will mentor you as well—not all companies do. Plus, you may not want to stick with your organization long term. So where else can you look? There are actually a number of innovative, non-traditional places and ways to find the mentor you need.
This new website, targeted at career changers, offers mentoring sessions for a fee with experts in a number of fields, including those creative ones that sound cool at college reunions (think animator, home stager, coffee house owner, etc.). The downside? You pay. Rates start at $50 per hour and go up past $100. (On the flip side of the coin, if you sign up to be a mentor, you get paid an hourly rate.) The upside? You’ll often get what you pay for. If you have no contacts in a field you’re hoping to learn about, it’s a pretty efficient way to start the process with a mentor who knows what she’s doing.
The Service Corps of Retired Executives (Score.org), which is partially funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, has 13,000 potential mentors in 300+ chapters. Type in a keyword (for example “marketing”) to get names of potential mentors that you can request to meet virtually, or in person.
3. Women’s Networking Groups
There are plenty of women’s networking groups out there (e.g. Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, Society of Women Engineers, Federally Employed Women, National Association of Professional Women, or virtual networks like Savor the Success). Choose one or a few, start showing up to events, and consider volunteering for assignments. Mentoring relationships may develop naturally with senior people leading these organizations if you volunteer to get involved.
4. Social Media
Obviously, joining specialty LinkedIn groups is one way to seek mentors, but it’s not the only option. Other ideas: follow experts on Twitter, such as authors of industry-related books, and get to know them over time by interacting with them through friendly replies and retweets. Eventually, one may agree to a phone call. You could also create a YouTube video or blog post explaining what kind of mentor you’re seeking and why you’re worth mentoring, and send it out through your network. You never know who will forward it to just the right person.
5. College Career Centers or Alumni Networks
At many universities, you don’t have to be a graduating senior to make use of the career center. Pick up the phone and ask for references. You may be able to look through databases of alumni in different fields, post on alumni email lists (whether geographic or industry-related), or even take out an ad in an alumni magazine—which may impress enough people that you’re serious about seeking a mentor that you’ll get more than a few calls. The more mentors, the merrier. You can learn something from all kinds of people.