• Learn
  • >
  • Be your own matchmaker
Be your own matchmaker
Be your own matchmaker

Sep 01 2022

Be your own matchmaker

5 tips for starting your mentor search.

By Lisa Z. Fain

Topics covered

At Center for Mentoring Excellence, we have worked with thousands of professionals and studied the research on best practices to achieve mentoring outcomes. We have used this information to define mentoring as a reciprocal learning relationship in which a mentor and mentee partner to achieve mutually defined goals that will develop the mentee’s knowledge, skills and abilities. A good mentoring relationship is a sounding board, a laboratory and a safety net for the mentee who often has no other place to try new things, share their own opportunities for growth or develop their strengths. While the mentee is the biggest winner in the relationship, I consider it a triple win in that it also benefits the mentor and the financial services profession.

So how does one go about finding a mentor? We’ve developed five steps to help get you started.

1. Why, not who

When you want to enter a mentor-mentee relationship, it’s not uncommon to start by asking, “Who should be my mentor?” But that’s the wrong question. It’s only natural to begin by looking at colleagues you want to emulate. But the first question should really be, “What do I want to learn?” Take the time and think about why you’re seeking a mentor in the first place.

2. What qualities do you need in a mentor?

Once you’ve firmly established your mentorship goals and motivations, you still have some work to do before answering that tricky question of who. The next thing you want to determine is the qualities you’re looking for in a mentor. Do you need someone who’s going to be affirming? Perhaps you’re looking for a mentor who will give you some tough nudges. Maybe you’re in need of an advisor who is great at prospecting or knows how to develop a sales strategy or can help you with underwriting and policy development. Do your research on prospective mentors to determine their strengths, and it will help narrow the list.

3. Spread the word

It might not seem obvious, but the next step is to let it be known that you’re looking for a mentor. Spreading the word is probably a skill you already possess in terms of client development. But I want you to think about using this ability for self-development. For example, when I was last looking for a mentor, I often told people I want to develop my thought leadership, and I’m looking for a mentor who could help push me to become a better leader. I even asked for recommendations and referrals. I think you’ll find, as I have, that your colleagues will be happy to help you develop these relationships. List the people you know and spread the word about what it is you want to learn — not about who you want to find — and the qualities you’re looking for.

4. Take your time

You don’t want to ask somebody to mentor you as soon as you meet them. Instead, set up meetings with several prospective mentors, and get to know them. When you’re out there scouting for mentors, rather than asking them if they’ll be your mentor, say something like, “I’d like to have a chance to chat with you about prospecting. It’s something I’m really looking to work on. Would you mind if we have a few conversations where I can learn from you on this?” You don’t want to scare your prospective mentor away, and this approach helps ease you into the relationship to see its potential for growth. It also tests their capabilities in terms of time and resources.

Beware that just because someone has the skills you’re looking to develop, that does not mean they’re going to be an ideal mentor. Mentoring takes skill, time, patience, resources and the willingness to invest. If you take your time to get to know them before asking for a more formal relationship, you’ll begin to see if they will be a good mentor.

Finally, don’t think of it as a loss if your meeting doesn’t grow into a mentorship. Remember that you’re developing new relationships that will be useful for you in various stages of your career. Maybe this person won’t become a mentor, but they can be an advisor or a coach or another source of information for you in the course of your relationship.

5. Prepare to make the ask

Once you identify a good candidate for mentorship, you’re ready to solicit your future mentor for a more formal relationship. You want to be really specific about what you’re asking of them.

You might say something like, “Thank you so much for your time and your insights on prospecting and client development. I’m actually looking for a mentor in this space, and I’m wondering if you might have any interest. Here’s what I’m looking for, and here’s what I think the time commitment will be. Is this something that you might be able and willing to do? What might that look like for you?”

As a financial services professional, you always strive to better serve your clients, build a stronger business and spotlight the professionalism and good work you and your colleagues provide. This is why financial advisors would benefit so much from building a strong mentorship culture to develop the next generation and transform the industry into one of learning and growth.

MDRT Peer Mentoring Program: MDRT members mentor other members looking for stability in their careers or seeking to specialize in their markets. For more information or to enroll, visit mdrt.org/connect/mentorship.