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May 18, 2015

How To Find a Mentor in 4 Easy Steps

There are a few keys to success that almost anyone will mention--hard work, sacrifice, goal-setting, innovation, believing in yourself....etc. While it’s all great advice, there’s one thing that's almost always noticeably missing from the list--mentoring. Specifically--being mentored by someone wiser and more experienced.

If you have the opportunity to be someone's mentee, I can almost guarantee you’ll be better off no matter what career path you choose to pursue.

With that being said, finding a mentor is no walk in the park, as it's important to choose the right person. However, the endless benefits make it totally worth the effort. Follow these simple steps and you’ll find your match made in mentor heaven in no time.

But first, here are a few reasons you need a mentor:

  • Mentors help you learn from their mistakes. Let’s face it, you’re inexperienced. You’re young. Green. You’re probably going to make a lot of mistakes (that's okay...that’s how you learn!). But, conveniently, mentors will help you limit the amount of mistakes you make, as they will share with you what they did wrong when they were in your shoes. In other words, you get to learn from their mistakes. Think of all the time and energy you'll save! They can help you make better decisions in situations they’ve already been in before. You'll benefit from their experience, and their failures.
  • A good mentor will give you countless opportunities to network. Chances are, your mentor will be connected to several people who are just as wise and seasoned as they are. To add, your mentor can: a) spare you the awkwardness of meeting new people by making the intro & b) vouch for you. Also, a little secret: the best jobs are usually passed around professional circles by word of mouth before they hit job boards or applications go up online. If your mentor catches wind of a job opportunity you’d be perfect for, you’ll be one step ahead of the game. After all, "it's not what you know, but who"...right?
  • They will help you navigate the working worldThere’s a lot of nuance to the working world. No matter what profession you’re in, you'll alway encounter awkward situations you won't really know how to approach. For example, how do you ask for a raise? How do you deal with your co-worker who's making your life difficult? It benefits to have someone to talk to and who knows how to navigate these kinds of situations. They've been through it all and will be more than happy to pass along their wisdom.

1. How + where to meet potential mentors:

Now that we’ve convinced you just how awesome having a mentor can be, let’s get started in finding your perfect match. Finding a mentor is a little bit like finding love: you can’t look too hard for it...sometimes...you just have to let it find you. Not to say you shouldn’t have it in the back of your mind, but don’t go out networking with the sole purpose of finding a mentor. The best mentor-mentee relationships are going to grow out of a friendship (more to come on that later) rather than a forced and awkward meeting. This means you've got to get out there and start meeting people! Network, network, network. Find people who have the job you want or work in the field you’re interested in and go to their events/meet-ups. Meetup.com is a great resource for this. There’s also this mentor match-making website you might find useful. If you work for a large corporation, check your human resources department. Big companies sometimes have mentorship programs that match you with an older employee. You can also search for and connect with alumni from your college on Portfolium or LinkedIn and keep an eye on what they’re doing. I also encourage you to go to career fairs and networking events your school organizes. The main idea here is that you need to put in the effort to meet people in your field and to find someone you really "click" with. 

2. The importance of building a reciprocal relationship:

Once you've found someone you click with, you need establish a relationship where both parties will benefit. Alex Turnball of Groove gives some pretty great advice: get in the habit of reaching out to successful people and offering your help, without expecting anything in return. If you find a good mentor, chances are their time is limited and very valuable, which means you have to add value when you’re stealing them away from their other commitments. There are a few ways to do this:

1. Offer a skill you have your mentor might not (e.g., coding, social media) and let them know you’re willing to help their business/side project.

2. Send over any ideas you have to improve their business.

3. Introduce them to someone you think could help them out.

4. Recommend any books, resources, articles that you think would be interesting/helpful to them.

Now that you have something to offer them and a way to get the conversation started, you should shoot them a quick email. Note: you can do this with multiple people if you want; you’re not limited to just one mentor! I recommend something like this:

Mentor Email Template

3. After showing them your value, pop the question!

So, things are getting pretty serious between you and your potential mentor? Great. Hopefully by now, you've built a solid reciprocal relationship and offered them your help. Maybe you've even pleasantly surprised them with a few coffees runs (Turnball recommends you do them a few favors to really win them over). Once you’ve proven to your mentor that you're in it for the right reasons, you can start asking them for help. Whether or not you prefer to ask this person to be your “official mentor” is entirely up to you. At this point, you should both know that you’re in this to help each other out, but if you really want to dtr (define the relationship) that’s completely acceptable. If you can, pop the question in person, or, at the very least, on the phone. Most importantly, make sure to come to the table with a clear idea of what you need from them--including how much of their time. Note: always keep in mind that you'll encounter problems that you should resolve yourself...save your mentor’s precious time for the big stuff (not day-to-day annoyances).

4. Live happily ever after.

Now that this professional friendship has bloomed into a beautiful mentor-mentee relationship, you’re (almost) ready to run off into the sunset together. Don’t forget to continue to put in the effort you did up at the beginning of the relationship; don’t get lazy and start taking all of their advice without adding value in return. Also, keep in mind that relationships change and there may come a time when your mentor gets too busy to continue helping you. But don’t worry, now that you’re a mentor-finding pro, you can always reach out to new people. You’ll have different mentors at different points in your career, and that’s perfectly normal. Just be sure to always try to helping others first before helping yourself, and you’ll foster an endless amount of great relationships.

"A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you."

I hope I've been of some help in your search for the perfect mentor. Good luck!

 

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