Finding a mentor

2 MIN READ | #blog

One of the most impactful steps you can take to propel your career forward is to find a mentor. Throughout life, we have had people who have guided us—our parents, teachers and coaches. We have repeatedly benefitted from those individuals in our lives who offered us the insight and wisdom they gained through their experience and knowledge. Your career is no different.

Why a mentor?

Before you begin your search for a mentor, you should decide what it is that you are looking to gain from a mentor. Are you looking for a professional expert in your field to develop your expertise? Perhaps you are looking for a successful executive to help you learn how to operate within a large organization? Do you need help with networking or starting a business? Answering these questions will help you identify the right mentor for you.

Be open minded

As you begin your search, remember that you are not limited to individuals in your workplace. You can look far and wide to find a mentor; for example, professional organizations, Chambers of Commerce, alumni groups, professors, where you worship, or even identifying candidates from newspapers. As you narrow the potential list of mentors, consider only individuals who are willing and able to spend time with you, and who are respected, honest, discreet and helpful. They have to be individuals who will enjoy and gain satisfaction from this relationship; otherwise it won’t last long.

One to one relationships matter

You won’t be able to find out all of this through arm’s length research. At some point you will need to reach out to your preferred candidate mentor. When you reach out to him or her, introduce yourself, let them know that you respect and admire their career and ideas and that you are calling to see if they would be interested in a becoming a mentor to you. It may seem uncomfortable to ask, but most people will respect your initiative and feel complimented by the gesture.

It may be helpful to be introduced by a mutual friend or acquaintance; that will take some of the awkwardness out of the introduction. A confident, positive voice will also go a long way in that regard. If the individual is open to being a mentor, you’ll want to set up a meeting at a convenient place and time. Be prepared with questions to ask. This meeting will help establish if you have chemistry with this person, feel comfortable with him or her and have shared goals about the relationship.

Next steps for a successful mentor relationship

If your candidate agrees to become your mentor, be sure to work out mutually agreed-upon rules, such as how often you will meet in person and the appropriate time and frequency to call or email for advice.

Finally, don’t feel you need to identify a mentor of the same sex. If that’s what you are most comfortable with, then go with it. However, consider the benefit of the unique perspective the opposite sex can bring to the mentor-mentee relationship.

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