Lawyers and law students can be very resistant to networking. It is such an overarching and intimidating term, unless you break it down into specific goals or skills. One of the most important networking effort you could make to advance your career this year is to identify, engage and work with a mentor who has your best interests at heart.
That’s right, mentoring is a powerful form of networking! The basics of your networking relationships are also important fundamentals of creating and nurturing a good mentoring relationship. We break it down into an easily remembered system.
The 4 Cs of boosting your career with a mentor relationship…
It’s not fair to expect a mentor to magically help you figure out your life or offer a cure-all tip. It’s unrealistic, and you need to do the heavy lifting. In order to get the maximum benefit from a mentor relationship, you need to be clear on what it is that you need guidance or support with. Just like you are told to have an elevator pitch for what it is that you do, or the job you are seeking, you should be able to break down into a sound bite what it is that you hope to work on with your mentor. Maybe it is substantive experience (tagging along to depositions, etc.), networking tips, client development assistance, navigating firm politics, or dealing with work-life balance. Regardless, being able to clearly state to a mentor what it is that you hope to get help with will allow them to help you more successfully.
One of the most important aspects of a mentor relationship is something that can’t be forced (take it from a successful lawyer & mentor, Jeff Selser). It is imperative that you and your mentor connect in a meaningful way, sharing personal or professional goals, communication styles, and/or shared interests. It is great that firms and schools offer mentor pairing programs, but if the mentor you have been paired with is just not someone you connect with, you may not be getting a fair assessment of how beneficial a mentor can be for you. Relationships that organically develop with a legal professional you respect can turn into great mentor relationships.
First and foremost, someone you consider a mentor should know it. It is so important to communicate with someone you have identified as a potential mentor to see if you are on the same page and ask if they are willing to serve as a mentor. This conversation can feel a little like a third grade “will you date me, check yes or no” effort – but it is worthwhile. Different people have different expectations of what a mentor commits do doing with a mentee, and you will get the most benefit if you are able to have clarity around the support you want, and then communicate your goals to a mentor. If they are on board you need to continue to keep the lines of communication clear and open with your mentor to help them help you.
Being in a mentor relationship is a two-way street. You can’t expect a mentor to fix your problems for you, but it can be great to help strategize and implement new tactics or efforts, and then assess the results. The more engaged you can get your mentor, and show interest in the suggestions they give you, the more likely it is that they will continue to give you advice when needed. Bring your mentor on as part of your team rather than a disconnected observer and get after your goals together. Also, make sure that when you can offer support for your mentor that you are willing to do it. You are getting to know this person and benefiting from their generosity of time and talent – once in a while ask if you can do anything to help them, make a referral for their practice that makes sense, or go above and beyond to show them you appreciate their assistance.
Get your strategy in place for working with a mentor this year!
If you feel like your mentor relationship could use a revamp, or you are starting from scratch and considering how to identify and engage a mentor, you might need some support or suggestions. Happy Go Legal is offering a webinar March 27th entitled “Are you missing an MVP on your team? Find out how a mentor relationship can propel your career.
Register Now and enter Discount Code “hglmentor27” to save $20