By Nicole Martin
The right mentor can propel your career on a positive trajectory. The valuable feedback and advice they share can help you land that coveted promotion, put you on the optimal path forward, or even open your eyes to new career opportunities. But just how do you go about finding the right mentor match to help you achieve your work aspirations? Below are some tips to assist you in identifying and connecting with a person who can positively impact your professional growth.
How to Find the Right Mentor for You
Know Your Goals
In order to determine who can help you on your career journey, you first need to identify your goals – both long-term and short-term. Think about what you want to accomplish professionally in the next six months, one-year, and longer. Are there specific projects you want to work on or clients you want to work with? Is there a dream position you want to attain? When considering goals, I like to break them down into SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant/Realistic, Time Bound. By doing this analysis, you can break down your goals into smaller and larger chunks, enabling you to see the bigger picture and understand what you need to do to reach your goals.
Think about What You’re Looking for in a Mentor
A good work mentor has certain qualities, such as more work experience, a track record of professional success, caring, invested in your success, authentic, honest, empathetic, shared values, and a good leader. These are all qualities that we hope to get in our managers, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. What’s great about finding a mentor is that you get to choose the person who checks off the qualities you are looking for.
Look within Your Existing Professional Network
Start your search by considering people with whom you already have a relationship, such as past managers and colleagues; senior colleagues in your department or other departments; and leaders in your field that you know, follow, and respect. Consider who your role model is. You might know someone who has already been informally mentoring you. Think about who has previously provided you with support and feedback.
Look Beyond Your Network
Expand your options by searching for people who may be a few connections removed from you, belong to the same group or alma mater, or are experts you admire. Although connecting with those outside your professional network is a bit trickier, it isn’t impossible – if you approach it the right way, which I will address below.
Consider a Group of Mentors
There is no rule that you can only have one mentor. Depending upon your goals, you may want to consider seeking out a group of mentors. As the saying goes, it takes a village. Sometimes the support of different people with varying backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives can be the biggest help in propelling your career.
Taking the Leap
Connecting with a mentor should be natural. Whatever you do, don’t ask “Will you be my mentor?” The mentor-mentee relationship should be formed casually. You could approach someone you already know with a work situation and say you could really use some advice and that you respect their opinion. If your ideal mentor is someone you don’t already have a relationship with, you should be straightforward as to why you’re reaching out. For example, if you want to change fields, you could say you are looking to speak with people who have experience in the field you wish to pursue and ask if they would be open to connecting with you to share their experiences. Do your research before you make any of these asks. You want the potential mentor to know that you have taken the time to learn about their career and achievements.
Once you form a relationship with a potential mentor, it is a good idea to discuss the details of how the mentorship will work. Will you be contacting your mentor as needed, or do you expect to schedule a regular meeting? Are you meeting virtually or in-person? Aligning on these details from the start will assure your mentor that you appreciate and respect the time that they will be dedicating to you.
Being a mentee is a valuable way to get career guidance. Hopefully these tips will help you find a good mentor that will help you achieve your work aspirations.