4 Tips for Finding a Mentor That’s Right for You
You take professional development seriously. You’ve read all the books, attended all the seminars and conferences, and now you’re looking to up your game by finding a mentor who can help you define your career trajectory and determine which steps you need to take to stay on that particular path.
You’re searching for someone who has been where you are and went on to achieve some of your biggest goals. You want someone who is willing to answer your questions, offer advice when you need it most, and help you wade through all the decisions and pivots you’ll make as you grow in your career.
But how do you go about finding a mentor? If this question has been bothering you, know that you aren’t alone. Most professionals would welcome the opportunity to work with a mentor, but not many know where to start their search in finding a mentor who is not only willing to work with them, but is also a great fit at the same time.
Here, we’ll cover four suggestions for getting clear on what you’re looking for and then going about finding a mentor who is perfect to lead the way on your professional development journey.
1. Know what to expect from a mentor
Before you even start your search to find a mentor, it’s important to get clear on what it is you should expect from a mentor-mentee relationship. While all mentor-mentee relationships are different, one can expect a mentor to act as a guide, provide insight to navigate difficult situations, and offer encouragement.
A mentor, however, is not a sponsor or a coach. A sponsor is someone who uses their network to influence another person’s career growth. They may sponsor a job candidate or they may work their connections to help someone move up in their career. A coach is a person who helps someone understand their own potential and assists in sharpening their decision-making skills; they coach each individual through experiences just as a sports coach would encourage their players’ strengths.
2. Determine what you want from this mentorship opportunity
It’s helpful to know what you’d like to get out of your relationship with a mentor before searching for one. Is there a particular area of your career that you need to focus on? Are you looking for someone who can help you sharpen specific skills? Are you hoping to work toward a promotion or perhaps change jobs completely?
Knowing what you’d like helps to determine who you can ask, and it also helps you clearly articulate what it is you need when it comes time to ask a potential mentor to work with you.
3. Seek out similarities and differences when you’re finding a mentor
You might think about finding a mentor who is just like you, but it’s important to seek out and embrace differences in the person who will be mentoring you.
Of course, it’s important to work with someone who understands you and your aspirations. You want your mentor to be excited about helping you work toward those goals. But, you also want someone with unique experiences and a perspective that may be more enlightened, or at least different, than yours. Their different experiences and ways of thinking will help you look at every situation in a new light, and show you options you may not have considered before.
4. Ask your network for help in finding a mentor
Now that you know what to expect from this experience and what you’d like to find in a mentor, it’s time to go out there and get one. The easiest place to start is with your network of current or previous coworkers, colleagues, and supervisors.
Let them know you’re looking for a mentor, and ask if they can connect you with someone in their network. Be specific about the qualities and qualifications you’re looking for, as well as when you’d like to start working with the mentor. And encourage your network to share your request throughout their own networks as well! The more people who can help you find your future mentor, the better.
Finding your mentor doesn’t need to be difficult if you put effort into determining exactly what you’re looking for and then put yourself out there by letting your network know you’re looking!