Finding the Right Mentor

One of the questions I am asked the most is, How does one go about finding a mentor? The advice that a lot of the executives interview for this newsletter give is, “Ask someone.” A lot of people expect a mentor to find them and take them under their wing. While that certainly happens, you should feel just as capable of finding your own mentor. There are two basic steps to take before you “ask someone”: get yourself ready for a mentor, and start searching for one.

Before you ask someone to be a mentor, you first need to ask yourself why you want a mentor. As noted in the article last issue, the best way to get ready for mentoring is think about where you want your career to go. A mentor is best equipped to help when both you and your mentor know what your goals are. Once you have established your longer term objectives, then think about how a mentor might help you. Mentors can help you think through a path to success, help you open doors to opportunities, or just be a sounding board for you as you work on your future.

After you have thought through your goals and the role you want a mentor to play, start looking for a mentor. Below are sources you might consider: 

  • Current Boss: While the boss role and the mentor’s role often compete with each other (this topic will be addressed in an upcoming issue), your boss might be able to connect you with a mentor.
  • Former Bosses: Often, the best mentoring grows out of boss-subordinate relationships after the subordinate moves on. They might either be mentors with whom you have already established rapport, or can refer you to someone who could be a mentor.
  • Your Company: Beyond current and former bosses, there may be someone at your company who would be a good mentor. Flex your networking muscles to find someone senior from whom you would want to learn.
  • Professional Organizations: Many professional organizations have mentoring networks established that you can use to find someone outside your company. Even if one doesn’t exist, you can seek out someone who might make a good mentor.

Wherever you go to find a mentor, keep in mind these two pieces of advice:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask. Even if someone says, “No”, they will likely be flattered and might help you connect with someone else.
  2. Don’t stop looking. You may have to talk with ten or more different people before you find someone who is both a good fit for you and is available to mentor you right now. Do not give up if you don’t strike gold right away. And, even if you find someone who agrees to meet with you as a mentor, keep looking. Having multiple mentors is how the most successful people get ahead.