How to Find a Mentor to Help Your Career

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Mentors with their Mentees“Mentors can provide valuable advice, counsel, advocacy and networking assistance,” says Lynne Sarikas, director of Northeastern University’s MBA Career Center. “They can be a valuable career resource. Family and friends may want to help, but they often lack experience in the field.”

On top of that, Sarikas points out that many of our loved ones lack the objectivity needed when you are serious about improving. “Professional mentors can provide support, encouragement, and career-related guidance, while identifying and maximizing networking and career exploration opportunities.”

So, if a mentor can be such a help to your career, how do you find one?

Finding a Mentor to Help You

Your first step is to figure out what you want. Think about what you want in a relationship with a mentor. Come up with some goals and expectations. “Being clear about the goals of the relationship and agreeing up front on the frequency and mode of communication builds a strong foundation for the relationship,” Sarikas says.

This means that you don’t have to meet your mentor in person. You can communicate through email, or use video chat or Skype to hold meetings.

You can start with family and friends as you look for a mentor, but your loved ones are more likely to introduce you through your expanded network when you look for a mentor. You can also approach strangers. Look at the profiles of people you want to be like. Read up on the potential mentor, and carefully ask for advice and direction.

I’ve mentored three different people directly, and provided advice and occasional tips and networking opportunities to several others. None of these were people I knew ahead of time. They simply sent an email and asked for help.

However, it helps to lay a little groundwork first. Follow your potential mentor on Twitter. Leave a comment on his or her blog, or use a connection on LinkedIn as a way “in.” Many business owners and others in your field are willing to mentor, if you ask for help.

Make the Most of Your Mentor Relationship

As you establish a relationship with a mentor, you need to make sure you are making the most of the relationship — and expressing your gratitude. Here are Sarikas’ best tips for working with your mentor:

  • Return phone calls promptly and arrive on time for meetings (online or in person)
  • Seriously consider all advice you receive
  • Show evidence that you are utilizing the assistance offered to you
  • Show appreciation for the help — say thank you frequently
  • Accept constructive feedback and apply what you have learned
  • Seek feedback and show that you are anxious to learn
  • Act professional at all time, unless your mentor decides to take things to a more personal (but still appropriate friendship) level
  • Try to give back by sharing relevant information, helping when you can, and referring qualified candidates

Don’t forget all the great ways a mentor has helped you, either. After you have advanced in your career, don’t forget to return the favor and in turn mentor others.

Have you ever had a mentoring relationship? How did it go?

Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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4 Responses to “How to Find a Mentor to Help Your Career”

  1. admiral58 says:

    i’d advise to network as much as possible outside your dept

  2. Having a mentor has done wonders for my career. I think the key is that it cannot be forced. It has to be someone you enjoy and someone who enjoys teaching. You can benefit from their experience and it can lead to exciting opportunities you never thought possible.

  3. Gloria says:

    I currently asked my current supervisor to become my mentor and she happily agreed. She’s been doing a lot coaching and I’ve been proactive watching videos/taking classes to better myself. It’s definitely helping get to where I wanna be in my career.

  4. Shafi says:

    Having a mentor is excellent but networking is another important way to go. The trick is even when you’re not looking for a job, you keep having contact with them through the years.

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