Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tips for finding a mentor when you're unemployed

The following question came to me via Twitter: "what's the best way for the unemployed/self-employed to find a mentor?". Terrific question!

One clear difference between someone who is employed vs. someone who is not or is self-employed is access to resources. (By 'self-employed' I'm assuming the person works by themselves or owns a small company for the sake of this discussion). Not that an unemployed/self-employed person doesn't have access - just that it takes more work to reach out and network with people when you don't have a company full hundreds of folks running around you.

Start off by making a list of folks that you already know that would make a good mentor in your opinion - a list of "candidate mentors". Perhaps there's already someone in your life who you'd like to emulate and who has the time and inclination to do so. If you need help developing this list of mentor candidates then ask around! If you are comfortable approaching your previous managers I'd ask them. Prior managers who already know you well may be able to come up with names of folks that would make a good fit. You should also ask friends and family if they themselves have mentors or know people who do. Just like finding a new job finding a new mentor is all about networking!

Other suggestions to develop a candidate mentor list:

  1. Use your local industry group. Ask their leaders for ideas. Usually people who head local or national professional organizations have contacts who are willing to be mentors. They may even be interested in mentoring themselves!
  2. Your local religious group or organization may be a fruitful path. Private organizations such as these tend to cut across corporate hierarchical structure and afford you access to a wide variety of people too.
  3. If you are self-employed and work with vendors ask the vendors for suggestions as they will likely know other folks in your industry (granted you want to avoid people with whom you are in direct competition with).
  4. If you are willing to go the paid Business Coach route again I'd ask for recommendations from peers or former peers.

Once you've developed your candidate mentor list then, as described in more detail in an earlier post about asking someone to be your mentor, set up a short meeting with each of them and talk about what starting a mentoring relationship means to you and why you would be honored if they'd become your mentor. Most people will be at the very least flattered by your request.

The bottom line is whether unemployed, employed or self-employed the key to finding your mentor is through networking and recommendations - much like finding your next job or client!

I hope this answers your question and offers some tips. Thanks again for the great question! Keep them coming!

1 comment:

Andrea said...

WOW! This does answer the question. Thanks so much for these awesome tips.

It can definitely seem much more difficult to find a mentor when you are not surrounded by swarms of people each and every day. However, as you have stated, it is not impossible. It seems like common sense now, but I never actually though about asking my friends and family if they had mentors. There has always been a division of my personal life and professional life. Now, being unemployed (from the corporate standpoint) and trying to become self-employed during this transition, I guess it does make sense to start considering family and friends to be a part of my overall social and professional network!

Thanks so much for this insight and your wonderful guidance! WOW!