Finding a Mentor


In almost all industries, there has been lots of chatter around the dreaded “Talent Gap” due in part to the Baby Boomers exiting the workforce and leaving room for the next generations to step up and lead.  For the vast majority of professionals, a good mentor can not only offer a big boost to career success but it can also help in nurturing the next generation of leaders. Today I want to dive into what it takes to find a mentor. 

Before I get started, it is important to make sure that our readers have the right mindset when it comes to mentor relationships. Mentorship is not simply something that you receive—rather, it is a mutually beneficial relationship that you participate in. Mentoring takes time and work from both the mentor and the mentee. As you consider whether to pursue finding a mentor, make sure that you have the right mindset. 

With the above established, let’s get started. Keep reading for tips on finding a mentor.

Step One: Choose Someone That You Want to Emulate
This likely means that you should choose someone with the career path that you are hoping to follow but does not necessarily mean that this person needs to be in the same industry as you are.  In fact, many people choose mentors in entirely different fields in order to get them thinking outside of the box that they live in day in and day out. You should seek to find mentor candidates who share your personality, career drive, and/or particular strengths (or the ones that you are intent on developing). You want someone who is similar enough that they can understand you well, but different enough that they have plenty to teach you. 

Step Two: Research the Person (or People)
Whether you already know them personally or not, it is a good idea to spend some time learning more about them. Take a look at their career history, their education, their personal interests and hobbies. Try to discover if you think that you would mesh well with them, and if they seem to be a positive role model for you. 

If you don’t already know the person you have decided to pursue as a mentor, this is an especially important step. Make sure that you delve deeply enough to distinguish between their public persona and their private personality. This is an important distinction. 

Step Three: Establish a Relationship
If you already know your prospective mentor, then you can skip this step. But if you don’t know them—or don’t know them well—you should take some time to establish or deepen your relationship. There is not a one-size-fits all method for this step. Your strategy will depend upon a variety of factors: your personality, their personality, how often you see each other, and more.  

Step Four: Schedule a Preliminary Meeting
Rather than asking them outright to be your mentor, schedule a meeting with them. An informal setting is best—perhaps ask them to have coffee or lunch with you. You can position the invitation as a desire on your part to learn more about their career. At this meeting, you can ask them some more pointed questions that will help determine whether they are the right mentor for you. 

Step Five: Debrief About the Meeting
Make sure that you take the time after the meeting to thoroughly evaluate the prospective mentor. Look at the criteria that you considered in step one and consider whether they could be a fit. After careful consideration, make your decision.

Step Six: Make the Ask
Once you have selected the mentor you think would be the best fit, reach out to them to make your ask. You can begin by thanking them for meeting with you, then broach the subject of regular meetings, and a mentor-mentee relationship. Many people will find themselves nervous at the thought of asking this risky question. Keep this in mind: “There is as much risk in doing nothing as in doing something” (Trammell Crow). 

We hope that by following these steps, you can be successful in finding a mentor. If the first person you ask turns you down, don’t become discouraged.  And who knows, perhaps the deeper relationship that you established with them in the process will be useful down the road. We wish you the best of luck as you set out on your journey to establish a mentor!

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