GUEST POST BY: Ilana Herring
“March Mentoring Madness” Blog Series Continues Another Month!
Last month I had coffee with a friend of mine. A smart, talented 29-year-old ambitious attorney. He expressed frustration. He wants to move up in his profession. Despite being employed at a New York law firm, he needs to move out in order to move up.
Since it’s not just what you know, but who you know, I suggested he get a Baby Boomer mentor. Someone with a law career he admired and respected, and who was willing to show genuine interest in him. Although mentoring is not a job interview, it would expand his network. I had suggested a Baby Boomer mentor because Millennials tend to relate well to Boomers, who are often in positions of leadership.
My friend is extremely good at socializing and networking. Yet, he confided in me that while he is great at networking with people his own age or younger, he struggles at networking “upwards”. He even implied that he had found older people less interesting. I on the other hand happen to enjoy networking with Baby Boomers. I shared with him some pointers from my experiences to help him build up his “matured” network:
Attend Networking Events
There are endless types of networking events; alumni, industry, vendor, professional associations, religious group events or meet ups. Find any that catch your interest, and are also attended by potential Baby Boomer mentors. Attend these events regularly. Once you notice the same people, begin to form casual connections. Find the Baby Boomers who have the potential to be your mentor.
Ask “How?” and “Why?”
Everyone loves to share his or her own experiences. Read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie to gain techniques in handling people. Always ask questions such as: Why they had chosen the field of law they practice? How did they get interested in law? What is the biggest lesson learned so far in their career? Do they have anything that they would have done differently in their career? Ask questions and then listen.
Make for Yourself a Mentor
My experience is that sometimes it is helpful to specifically ask someone to be your mentor. In other situations, you don’t need to explicitly ask them. In that case, you call or meet them when you have something specific on your mind to ask. It is up to you which of the two routes to go. Trust your instinct to choose which route.
A mentor should be someone you both like and respect. Its very possible you might be nervous to speak with them about becoming your mentor. That is okay. It’s probably a good thing. There should be a healthy sense of awe. They have something you don’t have (yet) and you should respect them for it.
If you are going to ask someone directly to be your mentor, here is (an embellished) sample to help guide your conversation:
Ms. Fabulous & Wise Baby Boomer Attorney, I have really enjoyed getting to know you at the XYZ networking events. I admire your commitment to professionalism, ethics, and public service. I have put a lot of thought into the fact that I would really like to have a professional mentor. I’d like someone whom I admire and respect and who can help me become a better lawyer and professional. Would you be willing to be my mentor?
Its up to both of you how formal or casual you want to be. Ask how often your mentor is available to meet. You can set goals and expectations. The most important part is that both people benefit. It ought to be a win-win for everyone.
I am extremely grateful to have been blessed with several Baby Boomer mentors. I hope that both my friend and readers of this blog have the good fortune to have meaningful relationships with Baby Boomer mentor, too.