Look EAST to develop your mentor network

Following these steps can help nurture and sustain these valuable professional development relationships.
Look EAST

Successful professionals often rely on mentors — people who can help them to develop and introduce them to others with valuable perspectives.

Mentors buy into the mentee's personal projects. They are on the lookout for opportunities to contribute their insight and guidance. The best mentoring relationships stand the test of time.

Let's assume you're in the market for a mentor. How can you initiate and nurture that relationship? It starts with promoting the relationship, and the "EAST" method — easy, attractive, social, and timely — can help.

Make it EASY

Simplify your message, and find a creative way to bring it to the intended recipient's attention. Be crystal-clear about what it is you do and the difference you make. Then finesse your message and consider how best to communicate it to prospective mentors. Making it easy for someone to agree to your request is about harnessing the power of defaults. It's about turning the question on its head: "Would you like to work with me?" becomes "Why would you not want to work with me?"

Make it ATTRACTIVE

When you drill down to the essence of what you do, you better understand why you do it and what it means to you. A by-product of this process: You recognise how what you do makes you feel. Tapping into these feelings can be useful. After all, human decisions are invariably made based on "feel" rather than hard logic. So, articulate your worth in the form of what your role means to you. This can wake people up to who you really are, and they remember you better. This is because they can more easily recall not who you are, but how you made them feel when they met you.

Make it SOCIAL

If you have an existing network of mentors, make it work for you. People are persuaded by the actions of those around them. Mentioning the goodwill you enjoy from these supporters demonstrates that you are trusted by others and encourages new mentors to join the group. They will be motivated to associate themselves with the positive behaviour of others, particularly if those others are perceived as being similar to them.

Make it TIMELY

Approach potential mentors when the time is right. Is there a point at which your value as a prospective mentee is maximised? Think about what they might need for their personal projects, perhaps as a key to gaining their attention. Also, networking events where Q&A sessions are part of the proceedings provide an excellent opportunity, offering privileged access to those you might not normally mix with. Posing a well-prepared question to a presenter or panellist you have identified as a potential mentor can provide a platform to continue the dialogue after the session.

Darryl Howes (darryl@strategicbusinessnetworking.co.uk) helps professionals develop their networking and career management skills. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Samantha White, an FM magazine senior editor, at Samantha.White@aicpa-cima.com.