How To Find a Mentor in 8 Steps (Plus Mentorship Tips)
Updated October 11, 2022
Published April 26, 2019
Jennifer Herrity is a seasoned career services professional with 12+ years of experience in career coaching, recruiting and leadership roles with the purpose of helping others to find their best-fit jobs. She helps people navigate the job search process through one-on-one career coaching, webinars, workshops, articles and career advice videos on Indeed's YouTube channel.
Working with a mentor may be valuable if you want to develop new skills in your career. Mentors can provide insight into specific professional situations, negotiation tactics, opportunities and career path goals. Choosing the right person to be your mentor is important based on your career goals and your relationship with them.
In this article, we define what a mentor is, explain how to find a mentor and provide tips for undergoing a successful mentorship.
What is a mentor?
A mentor is a professional who guides another person through experience by offering advice, developing trust and listening and responding to questions and concerns. Mentors should be authentic and dependable, aware of the needs and engaged with their mentees. Mentorship also requires professional expertise in the specific field to advise their mentee who may be entering the field for the first time, exploring a potential new career path or hoping to succeed in their current position.
Some potential benefits of working with a mentor include:
Developing professional connections for future opportunities
Having a reliable source for a letter of recommendation
Gaining honest feedback about your strengths and areas for improvement
Identifying opportunities and resources to build key skills
Having support during the hiring process for resume editing and practicing interview questions
Read more: 13 Reasons Why You Should Have a Mentor
How to find a mentor
Follow these steps to find a mentor who can support you by providing the insight and assistance you need:
1. Reflect on whether mentorship is the right fit
Think about where you are in your career and the reasons why you want a mentor. Reflect on your personal attributes, what you think you may be like as a mentee and how well you accept feedback. This may help you confirm that you're ready to look for a mentor and provide a basis for your search for one.
2. Identify your mentorship needs
Determine what you hope to learn from your mentor. Consider outlining the goals you have set for your own professional growth, and think about what it would take to achieve those goals. This can help know who could be a good mentor for you and provide a starting point for your initial conversations with them.
3. Consider people you admire
Create a list of people in your career whom you admire or people at more advanced stages in your field whom you want to be like, and think about what you respect about them. Consider who you might know in your life who also has these attributes, and focus on people within your same field so they can help you develop hard and soft skills. It's also important to prioritize people who enjoy teaching or training and value fostering growth. This may help you brainstorm with people you potentially know to become your mentor.
4. Start with your network
Begin your search for a mentor by reviewing your professional network. Think about people you currently work with or previously did, and reflect on your relationships with them. It may also be useful to go through the profiles of your connections on professional networking websites to find someone you've previously met with who has the expertise you desire.
5. Explore other options for finding a mentor
Expand your search to include other options for getting a mentor. For example, joining a professional organization in your field may be helpful or attending networking events. This may help you connect with more professionals in your field, and some of these groups or events offer additional services to help match mentees and mentors. It may also be useful to explore online databases or groups of mentors.
6. Prepare your elevator pitch
Be prepared to share your goals, why you think this person is the right mentor for you, and your expectations of them confidently. Setting clear expectations in the initial conversation, including the time commitment involved, provides your potential mentor with the information they need to contemplate your request. Creating an elevator pitch may help you share your ideas succinctly and prevent you from forgetting anything important you want to say.
Read more: How To Create the Perfect Elevator Pitch
7. Request a meeting with them
Ask the person you want to be your mentor to meet with you. An email or a phone call is an appropriate way to ask for a meeting, but the best option may depend on your relationship with them. Consider asking them to meet you for coffee or lunch to provide a neutral, relaxed place to have the conversation.
8. Explain your interest
Share your elevator pitch to explain to your potential mentor why you want to find a mentor, why you think they could be the right mentor for you and what you hope to learn from them. It may also be helpful to discuss how you may be able to benefit them as a mentee. Answer any questions they may have, and create a plan for what to do next if they agree. It's important to be respectful if they decline your offer, and it may be worthwhile to ask if they know someone they know has an interest in becoming a mentor.
Tips for a successful mentorship
Consider these tips to help you develop your relationship with your mentor and be a good mentee:
Set a goal. Having a goal for your mentorship helps focus your relationship. Decide what you want to achieve, and develop a plan with your mentor about how to do it.
Form a personal relationship. A good personal relationship with your mentor is important for fostering a good mentoring relationship with them. Familiarize yourself with them, and make it a priority to work well with them.
Accept constructive criticism. Constructive feedback is crucial for fostering your professional growth. Learn how to accept constructive criticism from your mentor, and apply it to improve your career.
Meet regularly. Consistent meetings are useful for developing your relationship and fostering your growth. Establish a meeting cadence to follow, such as once a week for an hour at a time.
Handle the logistics. Being a mentor can require a lot of time. Ask your mentor about their meeting style and time preferences, and coordinate the details of meetings.
Create agendas. A meeting outline can be useful for ensuring you have focused, productive meetings with your mentor. Make the agenda in advance, and share it with them so they can prepare.
Update them often. Mentors generally want to know about your professional development. Share regular updates with them about your growth, especially between your meetings and after important career events.
Be honest. Transparency is helpful throughout your entire mentorship. Be honest with your mentor about what you want to learn, and answer their questions about your career truthfully.
Share helpful feedback. Giving constructive feedback to your mentor may help them learn how toto support you better. Provide specific feedback, and focus on the facts if they ask for it.
Set an end date. Most mentorships last for four to six months, but you can decide together what works for you. Choose an end date to help provide a deadline for your goals.
Establish boundaries. Personal relationships are important, but it's important to focus your meetings on professional matters. Be mindful of avoiding venting about work, and strive to have productive conversations.
Take notes. Note-taking is useful for tracking helpful advice that your mentor shares. Keep track of important information they share, and use this as a reference for items you want to discuss further.
Offer your help. Mentees can often help their mentors, too. Ask if there's anything you can do to help them, such as providing your opinion on a presentation they're working on or proofreading a document for them.
Practice gratitude. Being a mentor is often a significant commitment. Thank them for their guidance in ways like giving them handwritten thank-you notes after each section or providing a professional recommendation for them.
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