Navigating your professional life can be tricky, especially when your career is just beginning. One of the most powerful paths to success can be to have a mentor.
A mentor is an experienced professional that guides you through your work journey and endeavors. They have the wisdom and knowledge that you haven’t gained yet and can make the process of gaining it a lot easier. They can help you achieve both your day-to-day goals and longer-term goals.
Tips on finding the right mentor
A mentorship is a relationship that’s professional and mutually beneficial. The mentor is a seasoned individual who will give you, the mentee, their hard-earned wisdom. On the other hand, they gain a wholesome relationship where they can nurture and guide someone who needs help, honing their mentoring skills along the way.
While the relationship should be friendly and supportive, it should also always be professional. Therefore, you should do some searching to find a mentor that’s just right for you.
If you’ve ever considered finding a mentor but don’t know where to start, here are some tips on finding the right work mentor for you.
1. Have a clear goal
What do you want from your career? Everyone has different career goals, so it’s important that you know what yours are. This is the first step to understanding who your mentor should be, as different candidates will have different knowledge to offer you.
You don’t have to plan your entire career path, but try and define some short-term goals and a few more general long-term goals.
2. Look for someone with your dream job
You should reach out to someone who has done and knows what it takes to do what you want to do. The most successful mentorships happen when the mentor and mentee are a good match. There’s no point talking to your soccer coach about your dreams of becoming an oil painter.
3. Look for someone who understands your role as well as the industry
Your ideal mentor should be someone who knows what your ideal role will entail, as well as the industry it’s in. They don’t necessarily have to be in currently, but they must have been at some point in their career for long enough to truly understand its inner mechanisms.
This will mean that they are able to advise you on specifics like projects, training, certifications, and other things you should do to get ahead, as well as organization politics and more.
4. Look for a mentor who has the right qualities
The right mentor for you will depend on who you are as a person, your goals, and your chosen role and industry. Additionally, it’s nice to have someone with previous mentorship experience as they will likely know better what you need from them.
However, there are some qualities that all mentors should have.
- Patience: As with any kind of learning experience, you will take time to grasp what you’re being taught. You will stumble along the way and make many mistakes before you reach your goals. Your mentor must have the patience to deal with these things as well as how hard you may be on yourself.
- Excellent communication skills: Being a mentor means listening carefully to what your mentee says and being present during communications. A good mentor will also communicate knowledge and what they expect of you clearly.
- Time: Some people will tick all the boxes and want to be your mentor, but end up not actually having any time to do so. Before settling on your choice, ensure that you both agree on when you will be speaking to each other and catching up. It has to be enough as well as not too much.
5. Approach mentorship like a business friendship
Rather than an awkward “will you be my mentor?” at a face-to-face meeting, consider sending your potential mentor(s) an email. You can let them know that you’re interested in being their mentee, tell them why you think they would be a good fit, and then schedule a call or a meeting to discuss it further.
This is a big deal for both of you, so doing it this way allows them time to consider what you’re proposing as well as to prepare for discussion when you meet/call.
6. Search thoroughly
A great place to start your search is your network. You can consider friends, family, extended family, and professional contacts. You can even look at local non-profits, volunteer groups, business leaders, or professional associations. Teachers from high school or university, your friend’s uncle, don’t limit yourself.
You’ll find that you actually know more people than you think.
7. Do what you can to be the right fit as well
Remember that it isn’t just about finding the right mentor, but about being the right mentee. You have to demonstrate that you have the potential to achieve your goals and dream job. You have to show that you’re ready to learn, humble enough to listen, and driven enough to succeed.
In a sense, approaching mentors will be like applying for jobs. You need to convince them that you’re a good fit for the relationship. Write your pitch down, review it carefully, use family and friends as a sounding board.
Put your best foot forward
Finding a mentor and beginning a mentorship is only half the battle. As with any relationship, it takes a lot of work and effort to maintain. The results are well worth it, though!