5 tips to finding a mentor
Ask any successful person the story of their career and it won’t take long before they mention an inspiring boss, mentor or teacher. The benefits of having support to help you navigate your career path and overcome obstacles are clear; in the words of Oprah Winfrey, “a mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” What’s often less clear, is how to go about finding this special someone.
Here are my top tips for finding a mentor:
1. Be specific
Start by identifying where you want to be in 5 years time and making a list of the skills and experience you need to get there. This list can then form a ‘wish list’ of accomplishments to target your search. Consider whether it’s necessary that your mentor works within the same industry or whether their experience can transfer.
2. Aim for diversity
Why limit yourself to one perspective? You’ll get so much more value from building a network of mentors to cover different areas of your development. To this end, you may be able to join an existing community of industry professionals or Facebook group.
3. Explore different mediums
Mentoring conjures up images of intimate face-to-face chats but you can learn through other methods. Successful people you admire will likely have blogs, newsletters, books, podcasts, which you can devour. Although it won’t be personal to your situation, this content will be edited to contain their best thoughts.
4. Nurture a relationship
So you have someone in mind that you would like to learn from. The biggest mistake you can make is to utter the dreaded words “would you be open to mentoring me?” Time is so precious that although people want to help, they’re reluctant to commit to a rather open-ended offer. A better approach is to first start a conversation by asking a very specific question, for example, what certifications have been most valuable to help you get your current job. Once you get a response, you can more naturally try to evolve a relationship from there. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t walk up to someone at a party and straight off the bat, ask them to be your best friend. It would be a little creepy.
5. Look sideways
Finally, you should also consider your peers for guidance and inspiration. There’s a high likelihood that they’re encountering similar challenges and can help troubleshoot problems. Forming a close-knit group to support one another will be invaluable.