How To Find a Mentor

By | October 2, 2015

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mentor

What is a mentor?
Why do I need to find one?
Who cares? I’m going to go shop for shoes on Zappos.

Ah, mentorship! It’s the career advice topic that we all love to ignore. However, anybody who is serious about their career needs to stop running from this topic. Mentors can be an indispensable guide along your career path providing advice, making valuable introductions, and lending a hand when you’re in need. Of course, many of us discover that it’s not so easy to find a mentor. It’s not like you ask somebody to be your mentor the way you would ask somebody to go to the prom. So what do you do?

1. Approach somebody you know. Ideally, this is somebody that you respect in your field. Somebody knowledgeable. Somebody who is a few steps ahead of you along your career path. Somebody who knows and likes you. That last one is really critical. You might be tempted to approach an industry titan you’ve never met before. However, their dance card is probably full. Stick to your network for now while you work on cultivating a relationship with those you have yet to meet.

2. Don’t be so formal. There’s no formal ask. Don’t do that! It’s weird. Just cut to the chase, and ask your mentor for feedback in regards to whatever ails you. If they like you, they’ll help you out. If they don’t, they’ll ignore you or make up an excuse. It’s normal to feel weird, angry, stressed or disappointed in the event that you’re rejected. Go ahead and feel those feelings, and then move on (quickly!) to the next person.

3. Groom future mentors. Most of us look up to a handful of people in our fields whom we we respect for their accomplishments. They are frequently well regarded and unavailable. However, you can attempt to get on their radar. If they are published, share their work with others on social media. Perhaps they blog? Leave comments on their latest post. And lastly, don’t forget to check your LinkedIn and social networks for any existing connections. You might be surprised at who you have in common. There might be an old school friend or gym buddy who can help you out by making an introduction.

4. Show gratitude for their help. Don’t just take a mentor’s advice, connections, time and then run! It’s important to show appreciation for their time and efforts, or this valuable relationship might disappear before your very eyes. Be thoughtful, considerate and kind in return. If you can refer a new client, that will always be appreciated. Connect them with a journalist who can cover one of their products or services. It might be as simple as offering to walk their dog while they’re on vacation. Just do something, anything, that lets them know how much you value their advice and time.