How to Find, Interview, Choose, and Engage the Right Advocacy Mentor for You
Working with a mentor, one-on-one to help you develop your advocacy practice, can be a huge benefit to you. From helping you understand the big picture of advocacy business, to helping you refine your services, to rolling out your abilities to the public who will hire you, having a mentor coach you through the required steps can make a huge difference in your ability to make your practice successful.
The mentors aligned with the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates are focused on helping you build a practice. The help you need may be about running a business (marketing, operations, financial, legal) or it may be about the services you offer (client services, advocacy strategies) – but the bottom line is that you are developing an advocacy practice, not just “being an advocate.”
It’s important you understand what a mentor is and what he or she can do for you. A mentor is a teacher, guide, facilitator and resource – someone who helps you ask the right questions, and seek the answers from the right places. A mentor knows where you can get the help you need for tasks like developing your contracts, creating a business or marketing plan, or choosing the right insurance. But be clear: the mentor won’t do these things for you. Your mentor will teach you and guide you to do them yourself.
Are You Ready to Work with a Mentor?
Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine whether you are ready to benefit from working with a mentor:
- Where are you in your practice development? If you are just getting started, then you may not yet be ready to invest in mentor services. If, however, you have done some homework, figured out the gaps in your knowledge, and formulated a list of those skills you need to develop, then a mentor might be exactly the right answer for you.
- Are you ready to invest in yourself? Hiring a mentor is an investment – not an expense. Mentors offer a service – just like you as a private advocate will – and should be paid well for their service to you. Each mentor charges differently for his or her services depending on what you want to learn, and how much time you’ll spend together.
- Are you prepared to do your homework? Some mentors will help you by giving you assignments. Just like taking a college course or showing up for your gym membership – engaging with a mentor is a responsibility. They can’t help you become professional and proficient if you aren’t diligent about completing assignments on time. There are no shortcuts.
- What are your expectations from the relationship? For example: if you think of mentoring as a quick fix, you will likely be disappointed. Mentors aren’t band-aids; they are foundation-strengtheners. If your expectation is that you’ll work with a mentor, and instantly begin making money, or that clients will flock to your phone or email, you’ll probably be in for an unpleasant surprise. Your expectations need to be about long-term, not short-term gain.
How to Choose the Right Mentor
Choosing the right mentor requires some preparation to be sure you know what you want and need, and that the mentor you choose will be the right one for you.
- Do your gap analysis – your needs assessment. This will help you set your goals for working with your mentor. Just like you would do a gap analysis to decide what educational courses to take, you can do the same to prepare for mentoring. The only difference is that you will want to be far more specific for a mentor. Taking a college course can help with the big picture. But the benefit to working with a mentor is getting the fine details worked out. Here is how to do your gap analysis.
- Your gap analysis should produce a list of needs: questions and tasks you need to overcome, or develop, or accomplish – with assistance, of course. So your second preparation step is to group those questions and tasks by similarities (for example, you might have three items that relate to marketing and two more that relate to financials).
- Prioritize your needs as best you can. If you have trouble prioritizing them, then that might be something your new mentor can help you with.
- Finally, develop specific questions to ask a mentor during the interview process. The questions on the next page will be a start, but you’ll need to ask questions specific to your needs, too.
Now you are prepared to begin interviewing potential mentors.