By Maeda Riaz • May 31, 2015•Issues, Mentoring and Networking
Yes, you can still benefit from a mentor.
After almost ten years of being a lawyer, one of my biggest missteps was not having a mentor. And part of me now feels like it’s too late – like I should be the one to be mentoring someone else, not the other way around. Taking the long view, however, I realize that it’s never too late to seek mentoring. After all, my working life will hopefully continue for at least the next thirty years! I still have a lot to learn.
There are many benefits to having a mentor at all stages of your career, even if you already feel like things are going well. They can provide advice on salary, advancement, and taking on rainmaker or leadership roles at your firm or organization. It’s always beneficial to learn from someone with more or different experience.
Additionally, many attorneys end up at their current job by default – they needed a job and took whatever was available at the time. As a result, some end up specializing in a field they never intended to. Even those practicing in the area of their dreams may later realize it’s not the right specialty for them after all. I have a friend who practices workers’ compensation defense but wants to do entertainment law, several others who want to bolt from litigation to transactional work, or leave the law entirely. Without practical experience in the field you want to enter, it is difficult to transition. A mentor already working in the field you want to enter can help you explore that transition and introduce you to people, as well as serve as an inspiration and example of where you’d like to be someday.
Tips on finding a mentor
Tapping into your existing network is the most logical way to begin your search for a mentor. Probe your immediate contacts but don’t your second degree and beyond contacts, like those found on LinkedIn. Try connecting with people at specialty bar associations, law and college alumni associations, networking groups on Meetup, at CLE classes, and through volunteering. Reach out to someone who has written an article or blog post about something that resonates with you.
Establishing and cultivating the relationship
It may feel awkward to ask someone you barely know, “Will you be my mentor?”. It might be easier to ease into it by establishing rapport and seeing if there’s a good fit first. Mentoring is like any other relationship in that you’ll get out of it what you put into it. Instead of only thinking about how the mentor can help you, try to make the mentor/mentee relationship mutually beneficial. Think how you can contribute as a mentee by helping your mentor in some way. For example, you may have resources or contacts that could benefit your mentor outside of the professional setting. A mentoring relationship will also benefit from structure and purpose. Having an overarching game plan as to when you’ll meet and setting up a schedule will ensure that you don’t hit the ground running only to peter out later.
Good luck in your search and please share your mentoring tips in the comments!
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