“Find a mentor!” is well-meaning advice you’ve probably heard from many people. Indeed, finding a mentor might be the missing ingredient needed to help you take your career to the next level. Some of the world’s most successful people can attest to the huge impact mentorship has had on their success – Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Luke Skywalker to name a few. No matter how high profile, there comes a time in everyone’s career when they could benefit from the guidance of somebody sharper in their field or more experienced. This article will provide advice on how to find a mentor and ensure you get the outcomes you’re looking for from mentorship.
“My mentor was the single most important person in my career. He taught me everything I know.”Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple
What are the benefits of a mentor?
As The Beatles told us, we all get by with a little help from our friends. And while mentors don’t usually reach friend status, the relationship can do wonders for everyone involved.Laura Johnson, founder of Strivin
It’s easy today ‘You should find a mentor’ to enhance your career, but why?
A mentor is someone who has already achieved a level of success you aspire to and is willing to guide you along your own path to success. They can provide you with insights and advice to help you navigate the challenges and obstacles that come with pursuing big goals.
One of the most significant benefits of finding a mentor is the clarity and direction they can provide. For example, it can be tricky to have an objective view of your strengths and weaknesses; having a mentor can help you identify these and how to best leverage or work around them. They can also offer objective feedback on your work, helping you grow and improve.
Once you find a mentor, you’re given the opportunity to gain new perspectives and insights into areas you may not have been exposed to – new ideas, concepts, and ways of thinking that can expand your horizons. They can also help you see opportunities for growth and development that you may not have otherwise noticed.
A mentor can provide you with a sounding board for ideas and problem solving. They can offer feedback and support as you work through challenges and help you stay motivated and focused on your goals. This can be especially helpful during times of stress or uncertainty, as a mentor can provide a sense of stability and guidance.
A mentor may also support you by leveraging their network for your development or professional benefit. This can be incredibly helpful so take the time to understand their network and don’t be afraid to ask for introductions where it makes sense to do so. This can be especially important if you’re looking to make a career change or break into a new field.
“Mentors can provide valuable insights and help you avoid common mistakes. They can help you get where you want to go faster.”Drew Houston, co-founder and CEO of Dropbox
How to find a mentor
So how do you find a mentor and make sure they are the right mentor? Mentors can come from different backgrounds, generations and even professions – it’s okay if they don’t look just like you. Take for example the mentorship between artist Salvador Dali and comedian Harpo Marx. The two met in the 1930s and became unlikely friends, with Dali eventually serving as a mentor to Marx. What’s most important in a mentor is that they can inspire, provide constructive feedback and support you to hit your goals. Look for people who have achieved the type of success you wish to attain, or someone who has a unique perspective that could be valuable.
It’s often most valuable to find a mentor in your existing network or even your own organisation. Ask around and identify people you admire or respect to see if they have the time and interest in mentoring you. Reach out to colleagues, past employers, friends or associates within the industry, get to know them and see if there is a natural connecting point.
Industry publications, online forums and webinars, networking events, LinkedIn or Twitter are also great research tools to find a mentor. Once you know who the right person is, send them a clear and professional message, indicating what you are looking for, your interest and goals, and why you believe their expertise and experience are a good fit for you.
“Mentorship is about sharing knowledge and experience. It’s about helping the next generation of leaders succeed.Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube
Making the most of a mentor
Once you’ve figured out how to find a mentor, you need to have a plan on how to get the most of the relationship.
One of the most important criteria to making a mentoring relationship work is to be receptive to feedback and open to learning new things. This shows your mentor that you value their input and are committed to making progress.
To really get the best from sessions with your mentor, consider the following:
- Set clear goals: Before the mentor session, make a list of specific questions or topics you want to discuss.
- Do your homework: If it’s the first session, research your mentor’s background and expertise before the session. This will help you frame your questions and give you a better understanding of their perspective.
- Be prepared to be open and honest: Vulnerability can be tough but progress is faster if you’re transparent about your challenges and areas where you need guidance. Your mentor is there to help you, and they can only do so if they know what you need.
- Listen actively: Really listen to your mentor’s advice and feedback. Ask clarifying questions and take notes to ensure you remember the key takeaways. If it’s a really important session, you might even ask for permission to record it.
- Follow up: After the session, follow up with your mentor to thank them for their time and let them know how you plan to implement their advice.
- Take ownership: Remember that your mentor is there to provide guidance and support, but ultimately it’s up to you to take action and make things happen. Use the insights and advice you’ve received to create a plan of action and follow through on them.
Be careful not to confuse your mentor with being your manager. Whilst your mentor will be your coach and champion, they are not there to follow you up on whether you’ve executed on what you said you would. Be respectful of their time. If you haven’t had an opportunity to prepare for a session with your mentor or follow through on previous actions, reschedule (ahead of time). Be mindful of also keeping your mentor engaged in the relationship – provide feedback on how their advice is helping you and supporting your achievements.
In summary, the process to find a mentor can be challenging. You need to approach the search like any other important initiative in your work. It may take some trial and error and you’ll likely have setbacks and rejections in your search. Once you find a mentor, you need to be diligent and thoughtful in how you leverage the relationship for maximum benefit.
“Mentorship is a two-way street. I’ve learned just as much from my mentees as they’ve learned from me.”Ginni Rometty, former CEO of IBM