We have discussed the importance of mentors many times on this site and studies have shown that women benefit tremendously when they have a mentor involved in their professional life. The vast majority of professional women rely on mentors in their careers. A brand-new LinkedIn survey of 1,000 women found that 81% of them had had a mentor. But how do you know you are actually qualified to be a mentor?
If you are unsure Whitney Johnson, founding partner of Rose Park Advisors, Clayton Christensen’s investment firm has come up with an interesting solution. It is difficult for mentees to find a mentor sometimes but it is also a choice for the person being asked to be a mentor. Is this a person they really want to devote time to? Johnson said she is constantly asked to become a mentor to someone, and doesn’t have a good way to figure out who’s a great candidate to become a mentee and who’s just going to irritate her and suck up her time. As a result of this Johnson as well as Bob Moesta, managing partner of The Re-Wired Group, came up with an actual equation to determine whether one should be a mentor or not:
Drive X Distance (of the mentee) ≥ Gap X Relevance X Effort (of the mentor)
Basically the mentee side of the formula is trying to determine how much he or she wants to advance their career and how much work needs to be done to move up the career ladder. The mentor side is trying to determine how much more experience he or she has than the mentee (gap), the distance between the mentor’s expertise and the mentee’s goal (relevance) and how much work it will take to bridge any gaps of experience of relevance (effort.) Johnson said her own experience as a prospective mentee bears out the importance of knowing what specific advice you want from a mentor:
“As a sell-side analyst at Merrill Lynch, I approached a senior executive at Merrill hoping he might support my ambition to get on a track toward senior management. If I’d been able to clearly articulate what I wanted from this executive perhaps he would have responded more positively. What if I’d said, for example: “Here’s what I know today, here’s what I know you know how to do, and here’s what I’d like to learn from you so that in 3-5 years I can be in senior management.”
Johnson says if the mentee can clear that hurdle then consider giving them another test such as assigning five papers you’d like them to read and then ask them to refrain what they want to know based on their new knowledge. This shows the mentee is really willing to put the work into this.
The other side of the equation really determines how much work the mentor will have to do. The bigger the gap in experience the less work the mentor will have to do but if you don’t have the right experience that the mentee is looking to understand then this is probably not a good fit.
Catalyst Director Heather Foust-Cummings says a good mentor needs to “make sure that you get the visibility that you need. They really have their skin in the game and are willing to ride their reputation with yours.” Catalyst found that 77% of women believe that hard work, rather than connections, is the key to advancement. If you are considering being a mentor or are looking for a mentor, you may want to keep this equation in mind.