What's the best way to find a product mentor (like yourself)?
TL;DR - Be clear about what you want to learn and then ask for help. You'll find most people are eager to help others grow.
Before finding a mentor, it's critical to think about what you are hoping to accomplish with mentorship. I think of it almost like writing the job description and measures of success :). Based on that job description, you can now determine who would be the best people to fill that role. Who is an example of the traits you want to have, or who has accomplished what you want to accomplish? If you are seeking structured and recurring mentorship from executives who are likely busy, approach them with a clear set of goals and reasons why you think they are the best people suited to help you.
Mentorship isn't always a structured process though. I have found a ton of value in peer mentoring, where I have regular chats with someone in the same role as me. I also learn a lot from Product Managers in the organization who have different skills or knowledge than me. I schedule one-off coffee chats with them and bring a set of questions that I want their help with. There are opportunities for mentorship all around you!
I've found informal mentors to be very helpful throughout my career. These have often been colleagues and peers I work with at a given company where I will buy them a coffee and chat about their career, experience, and problems I may be encountering to get their take. If they give advice or suggest something (a book, a conversation with someone from their network, etc.) I follow up with them to let them know how their recommendation or connection helped me with my problem. This creates a positive reinforcement loop where they feel good about helping me (I took their advice, learned something, and let them know it made a difference), and they, in turn, make themselves available to help me again in the future. There are often many people in your organization you can learn from if you take the time to get to know them.
If you cannot find these informal mentors, or you'd like something more formal:
- Network: Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and reach out to people in your network to see if anyone is interested in mentoring you.
- Ask your company: Many companies have mentorship programs or can help you connect with a mentor within the organization. Ask your manager or HR if any internal mentorship opportunities are available.
- Use online resources: Several online resources, such as LinkedIn or mentorship platforms, can help you find a mentor. You can search for potential mentors based on their industry experience or areas of expertise.
- Consider a paid mentor: If you're having trouble finding a mentor, you might consider paying for mentorship services. Several professionals offer paid mentorship services or coaching and can help you with your professional development.
It's important to do your research and choose a mentor who has the experience and expertise that aligns with your goals and needs. Don't be afraid to reach out to multiple people to find the right fit.