How to Find a Career Mentor

When it comes to careers, everyone needs advice sometimes. Meet a career mentor. A career mentor can be a great asset for your professional growth. A mentor can share their skills and expertise while helping you grow in your career. Your mentor can help you set career goals, make decisions and more. Finding a great mentor can be a challenge. Learn how to find a career mentor and start reaping the benefits of this relationship.

In reality, finding a mentor is all about connecting with someone who inspires you. You can find a career mentor through networking and exploring your professional connections. When you think about how to find a career mentor, you need to think about where you want to be in your career. Learn more about mentoring relationships and how to find a career mentor.

What is a Career Mentor?

Your mentor can play a great role in your career advancement. A career mentor is someone who serves as an experienced, trusted advisor.

The word “mentor” stems from literature. Homer’s “The Odyssey” features a character called Mentor. Mentor served as Odysseus's son’s teacher. Odysseus left his kingdom under Mentor’s care when he went to fight in the Trojan War. You might consider your career path under your mentor’s care as you grow through guidance.

Why Do I Need a Mentor?

There are many reasons why you might choose to work with a mentor. A mentor can challenge you and help you grow. A mentor can promote inner reflection by asking difficult to answer questions. Your mentor can be a source of wisdom during difficult times and a personal advocate when you need someone to have your back.

Working with a mentor offers a perfect way for young professionals to learn from the experience of a more seasoned advisor.

Things Your Mentor Can Do For You

Your mentor can play a specific role in your growth and development. Things a mentor can do for you include:

  1. Help you see a big picture view of your growth and development.
  2. Can help you view your career destinations and journeys, but doesn’t give you a detailed map on how to get there.
  3. Offers encouragement guidance and cheerleading along the way.

Things a Mentor Shouldn’t Do for You

  1. Be your coach. Your mentor should help you come to the right decision, not make the decision for you.
  2. Serve as an advocate for you at your place of employment as your boss would.
  3. Give you direct instructions on how to do things, like manage short term problems.
  4. Function as your therapist.

It’s easy to see why a mentor can be an asset for your career. After you have identified that you’d like to work with a mentor, it’s time to get to work to find a career mentor.

Get Ready to Find a Career Mentor

The first step in finding a career mentor is having a clear vision of where you want to be in your career path. You also need the drive to get there and the confidence required to reach out to a potential mentor who you find inspirational to help you along your career journey.

There are a few questions you should ask yourself when you’re getting ready to find a career mentor. Doing a little soul searching and finding the answers to these questions can help you narrow down what to look for in a potential mentor.

What Do I Need Help With?

Searching for a mentor is a lot like a job search. You need to find the best fit for both you and your mentor and you need to plot out where you’d like to be in a given amount of time. Where would you like to be in one year? Three years? Five years? What barriers are blocking the way?

Asking yourself these questions can help you determine what you need help with. Don’t just answer with the skills you want to learn or promotions you want to snag -- think about the big picture and your personal growth, too. Think beyond the feedback you got in your last annual review and plot the long term course. Is there a fear that’s holding you back? Do you need help forging a working relationship with a difficult coworker?

Your career mentor should be someone who can guide you through your struggles. They shouldn’t give you detailed instructions on how to deal, but instead, they should be able to point you in the right direction. Your mentor should be someone you trust, so don’t hold back when thinking about your challenges.

Is There a Potential Mentor in My Network?

After you’ve figured out what you need help with and what challenges you’d like to overcome, it’s time to identify a potential mentor. Look at your social and professional networks. Is there someone who has overcome similar challenges or who has landed where you want to be? Your mentor might be someone more senior to you. Consider former and current colleagues, friends, family members and other contacts. Consider combing through your LinkedIn connections. Think outside the box when it comes to your network and making connections.

Other places you can look for a mentor in your network include:

  • Alumni directories
  • Social media
  • Professional associations

While you’re looking for a potential mentor, consider someone who has personally overcome or excels at the obstacles you face. For example, if you are struggling with presentations, you might consider choosing a potential mentor who is a dynamic speaker.

After you have identified someone you’d like to serve as your mentor, it's time to speak up and ask for help.

How Do I Ask for Help?

One of the biggest problems facing young professionals is that they struggle to ask for help when they need it. The way you approach your career mentor to ask for help will vary. Regardless of how you ask, it is wise to take a humble and authentic approach.

If you are reaching out to a professional contact to ask for mentorship, consider reaching out in writing. Send them a message or email explaining:

  • You admire their accomplishments
  • How they have inspired you
  • What you think they could help you with as a mentor

In the message, you might want to invite them to sit down and chat, kind of as an informational interview regarding mentoring. Give them the best way to get ahold of you, and tell them you hope they’d like to talk further. Don’t be afraid to follow up with a phone call.

If your potential member is within your current organization, you might want to discuss the situation with your immediate supervisor before you reach out. He or she might know this person better and can give you pointers on your approach. Even if you admire your boss or manager, it is wise to consider choosing a mentor outside of your direct line of supervision.

It is important to be humble when you ask for help from a potential mentor. Don’t reach out feeling like your potential mentor “owes” you any help. Reaching out to a potential mentor is the first step in establishing a relationship that could benefit you for many years to come.

Other Tips for Finding a Career Mentor

Other things to keep in mind when you’re trying to find a career mentor include:

  • If you’re changing careers or a recent grad who is new to the workforce, consider researching the field and finding top players in your area.
  • Learn everything you can about your mentor before agreeing to work together. Explore their background, education and even their personal interests.
  • After you have a few candidates in mind, narrow the list down based on who might be a good fit for you and your career goals.
  • From there, start contacting the people on your list. Start with a polite email introducing yourself and your intentions. It might be wise to cast a wide net, as not everyone will respond.
  • Don’t rush a response from a potential mentor. Be patient. The person you are reaching out to might be busy. Give them a day or two to respond.
  • Try to form a relationship with your potential mentor. Get to know their personality. Show them your personality. Make sure they give you a good gut feeling.

Building A Relationship With Your Potential Mentor

After you find a mentor and reach out, your next step is building a relationship. You can start building a relationship by doing something as simple as asking to meet up for coffee or setting up a phone call.

It might be wise to hold your initial meeting like an informational interview. You can ask your potential mentor questions about their career and experiences. You can also see if any chemistry exists between you and your mentor. Consider this conversation an exploration. It should give you a sense of whether or not you and your mentor will be a great pair.

Don’t take it personally if you don’t hit it off with your first potential mentor. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find someone you mesh with in personality and professional goals.

If you click with your mentor and want to formalize the relationship, you might want to schedule meetings. Once a month is a good frequency, though the structure of the relationship is up to you.

After you’ve established a relationship and structure with your mentor, don’t let the relationship go stagnate. Continue to grow the relationship. You can cultivate the mentor-mentee relationship by sending occasional updates, relevant articles, interesting social media posts and more. Don’t forget that networking is a two-way street. You and your mentor can exchange valuable information along the way.

Nurturing The Mentor Relationship

Don’t forget that your mentor is there to help you. It is important that you treat your mentor with respect and gratitude. Be punctual when meeting with your mentor. Be well prepared with questions and situations on which you are seeking guidance. Be aware of how you think your mentor can help you with the challenges you are facing. Try to get the most out of each session with your mentor.

Your mentor will likely also want to hear about the progress you are making. Share examples of how their guidance helped you grow.

Both the mentee and the mentor have responsibilities when it comes to nurturing the relationship. You might want to outline these responsibilities during the initial interview you hold with your potential mentor. A mentee's responsibilities include:

 

  • Come up with ways to maintain and propel your relationship. You and your mentor are investing time in one another. This means you must do more than just participate; you need to pursue learning.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for critiques or advice. Asking for advice or constructive criticism gives you an opportunity to practice your listening skills. It lets you take the information you need and leave the rest.
  • Focus on being coachable. Learn to take all kinds of feedback from your mentor, even if it is criticism.
  • Make note of what your mentor says. Report back with how their advice has helped you grow. Follow up with the steps you took to take their advice.
  • Schedule and keep your appointments with your mentor. This shows your mentor you respect his or her time.
  • Specify your goals. Set up your career goals with your mentor up front. Goals might include going for a promotion or learning new skills.
  • Talk about methods you can use to get to your goals and set clear definitions of success. This will allow you to effectively determine the success of working with your mentor.

Understanding the responsibilities of being a mentee can help ensure you and your mentor get the most out of your relationship.

How to Succeed with a MentorHow to Succeed with a Mentor

Knowing the roles of a mentor and a mentee is a great starting point for fostering a relationship.

Ten other requirements for a successful mentor-mentee relationship might include:

  1. Don’t expect your mentor to do the work for you or immediately solve your problems.
  2. Discuss your fears and goals openly.
  3. Invest your time with a mentor who feels like a natural fit.
  4. Don’t expect your mentor to give you specific advice.
  5. Remember to share when you are floundering or struggling.
  6. Always show that you value your mentor’s experience and support.
  7. Listen carefully, take notes and see how you can apply your mentor’s guidance to your career and life.
  8. Take advantage of your mentor’s advice to grow and adjust your long-range plan.
  9. Show gratitude and appreciation to your mentor each time they meet. Consider picking up the tab when you meet for coffee or lunch.
  10. Don’t abuse your relationship with your mentor or expect any political support.

Make the Most of Your Mentor Relationship

It is important to remember that being a mentee is not a passive role. Mentorship requires major investments of time and energy. You need to cultivate the relationship, define your goals, seek out advice, attend meetings and more.

Your relationship with your mentor is constantly evolving. Experiences of working together can help build a stronger bond. This bond will come in handy as you navigate business or life decisions. There are a number of ways you can strengthen your bond with your mentor and make the most out of working together.

Find a Mentor Who Fills Gaps In Your SkillsFind a Mentor Who Fills Gaps in Your Skills

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Though it might seem tempting, don’t find a mentor whose strengths are a clone of yours. Though this can help your strengths grow even further, it can be wise to have a mentor who can advise you in areas you need to grow. It can be wise to find a mentor whose skills fill in your personal gaps. This gives you even more opportunities to learn under your mentor’s guidance.

Don’t Blindly Follow Your Mentor’s Advice, Evaluate it Carefully

Your mentor can guide and advise you, but they can’t live your life for you. Your mentor can give you an outside perspective and help you think differently, but ultimately the choice is yours. Trust your gut. Only you know what’s best for you in your life.

The role of a mentor is to help you grow and reflect, not give you the definitive answers. Evaluate what your mentor has to say and apply their advice to your life and career as it applies to you.

Find Mentorship in Unexpected Places

Going through the formal process of finding a mentor can help you match with someone who suits your goals and what you seek to accomplish. However, mentors also come in unexpected places.

One way you can find mentorship in unexpected places is by looking for something to learn from everyone you meet. If you treat everyone as a potential teacher, you’ll learn a lot along the way.

Look for something to learn from everyone you meet and you’ll find mentorship in unexpected places.

Look for Diversity

You know to look for a mentor with different strengths than your own. Having mentors with diverse backgrounds also adds an additional perspective. Finding a mentor who can offer a different point of view can help you grow.

Be a Good Mentee

The onus of a mentoring relationship rarely falls on the mentor. Mentees should take responsibility for cultivating the relationship, too. A good mentorship often boils down to initiative. Things mentees can do to make the most of their mentorship include:

  • Find the right career mentor
  • Layout the framework of the relationship
  • Put in an effort at the relationship
  • Come in prepared with specific questions, requests for support and areas for feedback

Know that the Relationship is Good For Mentors tooKnow that the Relationship is Good for Mentors, Too

Mentorship is a two-way experience. The most successful relationships are when both parties can learn from each other and apply new knowledge toward personal growth. Mentoring someone can keep your mind and skills fresh and keep you connected with what makes you successful.

When you find a career mentor, you find someone who can help you grow. Find a mentor, build a relationship and enjoy the success that follows.

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