Find Your Tribe

How to Find Mentors & Your Best Support Group

New York Times bestselling author John Maxwell wrote, “Connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them.” Connecting with others is imperative in the workplace to advance your career. The question is, which type of connection do you need? It may be a mentor, a person who supports you with advice and experience, or a tribe made up of friends, co-workers and others who support you. It most likely is both. Let’s dig into what each connection means for your career: 

What is a mentor?

Business News Daily writes “A mentor helps you build your skills as a leader, a strategist, a consultant or a manager. They can guide you toward making sound decisions that positively affect the trajectory of your career path or in gaining skills needed for your industry.” This person is someone you want to be like. Their advice and input may provide different perspective to help you gain experience and understanding in your current role so that you can get to the next level.

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What exactly is your role in the mentoring relationship?

The mentor/mentee relationship only works if you come prepared. What do you want to talk about with this person? On which situations do you want their insight? When you show your mentor you are eager and open to learn, there is an opening for their advice and insight. 

How do I get a mentor? Where do I find one?

Find someone you admire or who you want to be like. This person could be anywhere! It could be a professor you had in college, a VP or director or manager from another department or your own department at work. I would recommend not asking your direct manager to be your mentor as you want to be able to have candid conversations that you may not be willing to have with your direct supervisor. Remember it’s ok to have multiple mentors and even temporary mentors. For example, my company had a mentoring program and during the program I had a great mentor. After the program we parted ways and that’s ok. I’ve also reached out to potential mentors because of a mutual connection who felt we would be a good match. Remember to start small. Have coffee or lunch and, if it’s mutually beneficial to start a mentor/mentee relationship, go for it. 

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Your tribe is your group of people who support you. This can be the people you eat lunch with or your co-workers. It can also be people you connected with at a company training, met during a Toastmaster’s Club, or people with whom you played company kickball. These people understand the company culture, what is happening in your workplace and know the people there. To be clear, this is not a gossip group. It’s a group that can support each other during tough times, can champion you if needed, and can be a great sounding board for working out solutions to problems. Sometimes, they’re just great lunch buddies! 

It’s important to identify people you can trust and who you feel comfortable around. It’s important to watch out for those who may be friendly but don’t have your best interest at heart. They may seem nice, but then all of the sudden you’re involved in gossip, negativity and it’s affecting your work. How do you know who to trust? Fast Company gives three ways to identify a trustworthy co-worker:

  1. They consider the signals they’re sending: Emotional Intelligence is key here. Can this person read the room? Are they mindful of their emotions so they don’t send the wrong vibes into the room? Everyone has bad days and stressful days, but those who are cognizant of their signals during these times might be some good candidates to add to your group! 
  2. They take time to understand the pressure others are under: When others care about you genuinely and understand what you’re going through, they can be an empathetic friend.
  3. They help out unexpectedly: Have you ever had someone ask you if they could help you when you looked stressed or offered to pick up lunch for you? These are some good signs to add them to your tribe. 

Finding your support outside of work:

These people can be friends, family, your therapist or your chosen family. When something is upsetting or you need a shoulder to cry on, who do you think of? Is that person a good listener? Do they help you think through and solve the problem? It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in you, help you manage situations and send positive vibes. For me, this is my boxing group. We have a ton of fun boxing but we’ve become a really close knit group creating an environment where each person feels supported to share personal or even painful things they are working through. 

It’s important to develop a strong tribe both at work and in your personal life. These people help you grow, learn and become your best self through their support. Mentors add another layer to this. They work with you to identify what you need to learn, where your next steps are and how to work through the current environment. If you’ve enjoyed the mentor relationship as a mentee, consider becoming a mentor for someone else. How can your experiences and knowledge be put to work to help others find that same clarity and direction at work?

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