5 Questions To Help You Find A Mentor In The Fashion Industry
Finding A Mentor
Finding a mentor in the fashion industry is no easy task. You need to spend some time examining what it is you want from a mentoring relationship. Be open to the possibilities and opportunities around you.
You might find a great mentor within your company, or perhaps your ideal mentor might be someone you know personally rather than professionally. Before you can ask the question of who might mentor you, it's useful to think about what you want to achieve. If you are looking to widen your industry experience, for example, finding a mentor within your organization may not be the best thing to do.
By asking yourself the question "What do I want to achieve?", and the others that follow below, you can start to hone in on the type of mentor and mentor relationship that would work well for you. With this preparation, and with your eyes wide open to every opportunity, you'll be looking for the right type of person in the right places, maximizing your chance of finding a great mentor.
What Do I Want to Achieve?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I looking to improve my performance and move up within my current organization?
- Am I looking to expand into a different concentration with the fashion industry?
- Am I looking to expand my network?
- Am I looking to bounce ideas or get impartial advice?
What Do I Want from a Mentor?
Once you have clarified what you want to achieve, it's time to consider how you hope a mentoring relationship might help you do this. There are likely to be many ways in which a mentor could help you, but by considering this question, you can identify what is most important to your current situation and ambitions.
Here are some things that you might want to include:
- Expert knowledge in my area of expertise;
- A sounding board for my ideas;
- Motivation to stretch myself;
- Help clarifying my direction;
- To learn the skills I need to help me improve;
- Someone who'll believe in me, and help me stick to my chosen path;
- Inspiration to do my very best;
- Validation that I'm heading in the right direction and choosing the right approach;
- Someone who'll open doors, and help me network with other people in the fashion industry.
Who Might Mentor Me?
Now it's time to start thinking about potential mentors.
It's good to approach this in two separate ways:
- Consider what kind of person your ideal mentor would be, based on the two questions above (what you are looking to achieve and how a mentor might help).
- Consider who in your organization or wider network is a potential mentor for you.
Brainstorm as many people and possibilities as you can. Once you have a list, write down the ways in which each person might work with you and be able to help you. Compare this to your ideal, and what you are trying to achieve.
Here are some questions to help you consider the possible candidates for a mentor relationship:
- Is there a mentor program I can access in my company, local business organizations or other communities I belong to?
- Who do I admire in my organization and wider network?
- Whose insight and perceptiveness inspires me?
- Who has lots of experience that I could learn from?
- Which leaders do I admire and want to learn from?
- Which authors and speakers do I admire?
- Who has been significant in my life so far? Teachers, counselors, friends, relatives, professional advisors, etc.
- What contacts do I have with other businesses, professional organizations, in my community and so on?
How Do I Approach Potential Mentors?
The answer to this question solely depends on who, or what type of mentor you want to find. If you're lucky enough to be part of an organization, professional association or community that has a mentor program, that's a great place to start! Mentoring organized in this way has added incentives for potential mentors, as participation tends to be encouraged and rewarded by the program organizers. The program organizers will probably introduce you to potential mentors, and provide advice on the best way for you and your mentor to proceed.
If you don't have access to a mentor program, it's important to meet and build relationships with people who might help you. Get started on making contacts outside your existing circle. If your professional network is lacking in potential mentors for your needs, it may be worth considering one of the numerous mentor services set up especially to match potential mentors and mentees. Carefully check out how these services work, and what type of mentor and mentee it attracts, to ensure it will meet your needs.
Once you have identified your potential mentor, it's all about building a good relationship. When should you broach the question of mentoring? Well, it depends on your relationship and how you envisage it will proceed. Some mentor relationships grow informally without specifically discussing mentoring. In other cases, your relationship begins by asking the other person specifically to support you in this way. With a more formal arrangement, it's good to clarify what you hope to achieve, and how your mentor can help.
Remember your mentoring relationship is based on rapport and good will, even if it's part of a mentoring program: Make sure your mentor knows his or her input is appreciated, and give feedback on how much you value his or her advice and support.
What If I Don't Find a Mentor?
What if you really can't find someone who's well-placed to mentor you? What if you need help now, and it's taking a long time to find or build up that mentoring relationship?
Well, first of all, don't stop looking for a mentor! Having a mentor can be a wonderful gift, so do give up on searching. In the meantime, it's also worth considering some alternatives that might help with more immediate needs:
Peer Or Group Mentoring
Consider asking a peer, or a group of peers, with complementary skills for mutual support. Sometimes this is an easier to establish than the traditional mentor/mentee relationships as it's more immediately mutually beneficial. Make sure everyone gives as well as takes: establish each person's peer mentoring objectives, and also what they offer in return for the learning and support they hope to receive
A good executive coach may have worked at a senior level in your industry, may have some great contacts, and has good professional coaching skills. Good executive coaches can provide many of the benefits of mentoring, but of course this level of experience comes at a price. Establish what you want to achieve and what you want by working with an executive coach using the same initial steps as finding a mentor. Make sure you spend time discussing this, and learning how the executive coach can help you, before committing to a coaching program.
Career And Life Coach
If you are looking for motivation, self-discovery, and direction, rather than expert knowledge or advice in your field, career/life coaching can be a good practical replacement for mentoring. As with executive coaching, there is an associated cost. Career and life coaching relationships work well when you establish a good rapport with your coach, so again choose carefully and talk through your expectation and what you hope to achieve. Just make sure that your coach is properly qualified!
Consultants Or Trainers
Consultants and trainers can bring specific expertise, knowledge and skills to help you achieve your objectives. Unlike a mentor, a consultant or trainer can be hired to meet your very specific needs. Make sure that your objectives are clear, in terms of the expertise and learning that you need, and resist the inevitable on-sell, unless it's for services you really want!
Sometimes, mentoring relationships form naturally; other times you need to be diligent and proactive in your search. Stay open to the many possibilities that cross your path: And you never know who will emerge as a significant mentor in your life! As you work with and meet more and more people you will start to develop relationships that move you toward your goals in many different ways. And if you are lucky enough to find a great mentor, enjoy the relationship, and as you learn and grow, let your mentor know how much you appreciate it.