Knowing how to find a mentor is even more valuable in the current professional landscape. Even under the best of circumstances, it can be challenging to find a mentor who will speak into your career growth. Times have changed and so has the workplace. More people than ever are working remotely or from home. The new dynamic is forcing many to ask some questions on the practice of mentorship relationships. “How do I meet and identify a mentor? Can it be done virtually, or do I have to pound the pavement with some good old-fashioned networking? If so, then how do I go about it?” We’ve got a few ideas that may help – let’s jump in.
First, everyone has a different mentor definition. Let’s agree on one for the purposes of this conversation. What is a mentor and what should we expect from this relationship? A mentor is defined by Webster’s as a “trusted counselor or guide.” The term goes all the way back to Odysseus, who entrusted the education of his son to his dear friend. To this day, the term holds the same meaning. A mentor is someone who will guide you by sharing wisdom, advice, and a listening ear.
When thinking about how to find a mentor, look for someone who has the type of experience or career you are pursuing. You’re looking for someone who has been on the road you want to travel, has had success, and is willing to challenge you. You’re also looking for someone who is engaged and has a desire to pass on the wisdom they have learned. A mentor is invested in your success and also has the ability to give constructive feedback.
Where To Find A Mentor
Where do you go to find a mentor? In today’s new world, there are still plenty of places to meet and network with potential mentors. There are also virtual options you can explore.
The bottom line is you want to find someone you genuinely connect with. Keep in mind that the mentor/mentee relationship is one that should develop organically. It will take time and effort on your part to explore and build. Be intentional and take responsibility for scheduling and following up. Press into the relationship and learn how to ask for more from your mentor, without being demanding. They shouldn’t feel pressured by this.
Most notably, it’s important to remember that the effort to move the relationship forward comes from you, the mentee. It’s not your mentor’s job to babysit you – proactively reach out at predefined intervals to set up connection points.
Places To Find A Mentor:
- Who Do You Know? – We often underestimate the power of the network we already have access to. Look at your contacts. Who do you already know that you admire and would like to learn from? This is often the most beneficial way to identify a mentor because you already have a relationship. The progression to a mentor/mentee relationship will be more seamless.
- Online Mentorship Networks – There are professional services that will match you with a virtual mentor who fits your needs. You can find someone who is a subject matter expert in the field or area you want to grow in.
- Professional Networking Events – Attending local professional events associated with your field is a valid way to meet mentors. Those you meet may be looking for clients, but if you build an organic relationship with them based on similarities, you may have found a mentor.
- Volunteer Organizations – Find a non-profit organization where you can give your time in an area of passion. Over time, you’ll build relationships with folks who share similar interests and who have already demonstrated a willingness to give back. a. Websites like Just Serve can help you find opportunities near you that match your interests.
- Affinity groups inside of your organization – Affinity groups (i.e. those focused on women, African American, LGBTQ+) at your place of work are a great place to find mentors that you can relate to.
Coaching vs Mentoring
It’s worth taking a moment to discuss the idea of coaching vs mentoring. These two terms sometimes get confused with one another, but there is a definite difference between them. Let’s do a quick comparison of the two:
- Mentoring – A mentor doesn’t necessarily have specific subject matter expertise (although they can!), but rather, help you see “around the corner” in your life and career. They provide guidance and insight across the breadth of your career and relationships.
- Coaching – A coach is a teacher who has experience in your field who can be considered a subject matter expert. They have had a level of success and can show you how they did it.
Benefits Of Mentoring
Mentoring has benefits for both the mentor and the mentee. The mentee has the opportunity to learn from someone with a high level of experience. Mentorship should result in the following:
- A greater level of empowerment in your professional development
- Clarity on your identified career goals
- An increase in confidence
- Filling gaps in your skills and knowledge
- Widening your perspective on career goals and opportunities by seeing the world through their eyes
- Building connections that will build your future
- Honest feedback about your strengths and areas of improvement
- A reliable source for a letter of recommendation
- Learning and developing mentoring skills of your own
When looking for a mentor, remember you aren’t the only one who benefits. You will be giving them the opportunity to expand their understanding and repertoire as they instruct you. When we teach something, we always end up learning more.
Questions To Ask A Mentor
If you’re wondering what you and your mentor should talk about, now is a good time to look at some questions to ask a mentor. The concept to remember is that this is a relationship and should bring value to both of you, so take time to identify engaging questions. If you take that for granted, the relationship could become one-sided and fizzle quickly.
So, how do you ask questions that bring value to both of you? Start by considering the personality and experience of your mentor and craft questions that are highly specific to them. Find areas where you need to learn, and they have the knowledge. Here are some general examples you can take verbatim or use to inspire your own questions:
- What’s one mistake you made that you wish you could go back and undo?
- What factors do you consider when developing strategy for the future?
- What would you do if you were in my shoes regarding [fill in the blank]?
- What’s one thing you wish you learned earlier in your career?
- What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned and how did it benefit you?
- How do you perceive my communication style? How can I make it clearer?
- What would you say are my blind spots and how can I improve?
- How can I become more assertive in my presentation?
How To Ask Someone To Be Your Mentor
Finally, let’s cover how to ask someone to be your mentor. At this point, you have identified someone you’d like to learn from and you’re ready to get started. So, how do you broach the subject?
For one, don’t start with “Will you be my mentor?” Take a low-pressure approach and ask them to have coffee or lunch with you. It can be as simple as telling them you admire their work and would like to get their perspective on a particular topic. If all goes well and you feel a connection, follow up after the meeting to thank them for their time and ask if they’d like to schedule something on a more recurring basis. You will be able to tell from their response if they are vested in you. Again, you don’t have to use the term mentor, but simply ask them if they’d be willing to meet once a month or once a quarter because you’d like to continue to learn from them.
You can make the request formally if you like, and this is certainly a bit easier if you already have a relationship. If you do this, make sure you are clear of what you are asking, so they know what they are getting into. When you’re considering how to find a mentor, it’s critical to have a good grasp on what you’d like to get from the relationship.
Finding a mentor can be one of the most rewarding relationships in life. A mentor-mentee relationship built through intentionality, great questions, and a willingness to receive feedback is a sure way to accelerate your career. Happy hunting!
- Consulting Resume: Complete Guide
- Virtual Networking
- How Consultants Use Excel
- Top 25 Consulting Firms