A well-matched mentor can be an invaluable source of inspiration, self-confidence and guidance throughout your career as it grows and evolves. They can give you feedback on your broader career choices, as well as how you deal with specific relationships, opportunities and conflicts over time. In many situations the proper mentor may even plug you into new professional networks and find new employment opportunities.
Finding your mentor
Don’t be intimidated about seeking out your personal mentor. They’re out there — you just need to put in some quality time and contemplation to find the right person.
Sujan Patel, contributor at Forbes.com, suggests you start by making two lists: one of people you know and admire, and one of people you don’t know yet but still admire. Next, make a detailed list of exactly what your goals and expectations are, as well as what you can give back to the mentor. Be specific, from what you want to accomplish in your career down to how often you want to communicate with your mentor and via what outlet (in person, via the phone, over email?).
Keep in mind: Your potential mentor doesn’t need to be in the exact same line of work as you. Rather, seek out people you admire for various traits that you value — perhaps strength of character, leadership, problem-solving skills — or people in specific professional roles that can give insight into your own career. This person might work in a field that you’re trying to break into and can help you grow the skills set and connect with the contacts you’ll need along the way. Think outside the box. Your mentor could be anywhere.
BusinessCollective asked working professionals where young entrepreneurs can meet mentors, and they compiled their responses into a great list of 10 places to start looking. Check out their list here.
Once you’ve connected with a prospective mentor, Patel suggests you have a candid conversation about your goals. After all, if you’re going to get honest and genuine feedback from your mentor, you need to be honest and genuine from the get-go about yourself, your needs and your expectations.
Maintaining the relationship
Once you’ve established your mentorship, treat it like any other relationship. The success of your relationship depends on setting reasonable goals, maintaining clear communication and ensuring that you’re both getting something out of the mentorship. With the proper mentorship relationship, over time you’ll both grow professionally while developing your skills and character.
And this is a relationship, after all, so don’t forget about one critical element: have fun with it! John Greathouse at Forbes.com suggests that mentors and mentees incorporate social and active outings together for their meeting times. Not only will this keep your relationship lively, it can create opportunities to share time together in an otherwise busy schedule. No time to meet for coffee? Link up during your routine morning jog or walk through the park and kill two birds with one stone.