How To Find A Mentor (With Examples)

By Conner Martin
Dec. 5, 2022
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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If you’ve ever been asked “Who is your mentor?” in an interview and a name didn’t come to mind right away to you, you’re in the right place.

Mentors are excellent resources for helping you meet your career goals and succeed in your job, and in this article, we’ll discuss what a mentor is, how to find one, and how to be a good mentee.

Key Takeaways

  • A mentor is a more experienced professional who shares their wisdom and expertise with a less experienced professional.

  • Before you find a mentor, think through your career goals and the challenges you need help overcoming to reach them.

  • Mentorship should be a natural relationship, not a business proposition or contract.

How To Find A Mentor

What Is a Mentor?

Mentorship is a unique professional relationship in which an experienced individual (aka the mentor) shares knowledge, advice, wisdom, and expertise to a less experienced individual (the mentee) and helps to guide their professional development.

A healthy mentorship is friendly and supportive. Both individuals should benefit from the experience, although the mentee should be the one to set the tone. A good mentor is there to support, not dictate, and the mentorship style should be tailored to meet the needs of the mentee.

Remember, the mentor is just a guide on the journey; you’re the one deciding the destination. It’s not up to the mentor to help you decide what you should do with your life. You’re just seeking a little help to navigate the roadmap you’ve already drawn.

How to Find a Mentor

  1. Establish your career goals. Before you start actively seeking a mentor, you must have already defined what you want from your career. This could be a specific job, or it could simply be working in a role that aligns with your values.

    It could also be presenting at a conference, working on a research and development project, or managing a department.

    Come up with a few goals, as these will help inform you as to what you’re looking for in a mentor.

  2. Identify the challenges you’re facing. Once you’ve defined your desired career and identified the goals you want to reach, identify the hurdles you need to overcome to get there. Think about your weaknesses, missing skills, lack of knowledge or education, and gaps in your work performance.

    For example, if public speaking is your greatest downfall but your goal is to make big presentations to a room full of executives someday, look at your network and think about who you know who is an exceptional public speaker.

  3. Think through your mentor options. Consider your coworkers, family friends and acquaintances, former educators, college alumni network, and former colleagues, bosses, and supervisors.

    Although it might be tempting to have your mentor be a CEO, you might benefit more from someone who is only a few levels above you.

    Ideally, a peer mentor three to five years ahead of you on a similar career path is the best fit because they will likely have more relevant advice to give in comparison to someone who is decades your senior and might be more out of touch with industry demands and expectations at your current level.

  4. Select a mentor. If you have a few people in mind and are struggling to narrow it down to a single option who would be able to satisfy all of your needs, you’re overthinking.

    Your mentor doesn’t have to be fully knowledgeable in every single aspect, and it’s perfectly acceptable to have multiple mentors at one time. Perhaps one mentor is great at coaching you through public speaking while another excels at the business side of your career goals.

    If you want to push yourself out of your comfort zone and grow, you should focus on selecting a mentor who has a different worldview. New perspectives are much more likely to change your way of thinking and problem-solving.

    Although it might be more comfortable to seek out someone who tends to think the same way that you do, you aren’t going to grow very much from that relationship.

How to Ask Someone to Be Your Mentor

There’s not just one correct method to establishing a mentor-mentee relationship. It all depends on your personality and ability to form connections.

Most people are more comfortable leaning on their interpersonal skills and starting a conversation with a potential mentor to first see if they’re a compatible fit, then letting the relationship grow organically.

  1. Introduce yourself. If you’ve chosen someone you don’t know personally to be your mentor, the best way to introduce yourself is for a mutual contact to make the initial introduction for you.

    If that’s not an option, try to find common ground when you reach out, such as attending the same conference, discussing attending the same university, or belonging to the same professional organization.

  2. Ask a few questions. Remember to keep it casual and professional. The last thing you want to do is throw all of your hopes and dreams on this unsuspecting person and finish by asking them to be your mentor and help you make it all happen.

    Start with smaller goals. If you don’t know your possible to-be mentor very well yet, tell them about yourself and then lead into a conversation topic. For example,

    I was recently hired into a management position, and I’m doing some research to help prepare for my new role. Would you mind if I ask you some questions about your experience leading multi-departmental teams?

    That’s a great ice-breaker and much more likely to result in a positive response. All you’re asking for is a professional discussion based on past experiences and general advice from someone who has been in your position.

    Once your mentor responds to your first question, then you can easily transition into other topics and build your relationship from there.

    If the mentor you have chosen is someone you already know fairly well and have worked with before, you can be more flattering. For example,

    I admire your public speaking skills. I’d love to sit down with you sometime and talk to you about how you prepare for important presentations. I hope to be as calm and confident in front of an audience as you are someday.

  3. Ask for help. You need to be comfortable enough with your mentor to admit your weaknesses and doubts. If you aren’t able to do that, your mentorship isn’t going to yield many results.

    You should have a decent idea after your first meeting whether or not you feel comfortable continuing to nurture the professional relationship and seeking advice.

Benefits of Having a Mentor

Mentorships can be profoundly beneficial in many ways. Organic professional relationships that are allowed to blossom over time may advance your career and goals in ways you couldn’t even imagine.

  • Experienced perspective. Having a mentor can allow you to reap the benefits of their experience before you have to go through it yourself.

  • Trusted advice. Having someone trustworthy you can go to for advice as you face decisions and challenges is invaluable.

  • Voice of reason. It may feel painful at the moment, but having a mentor who is willing to talk you down from a rash decision will save you a lot of trouble.

  • Networking connections. Your relationship with your mentor opens up a much broader network of professional connections than you would have access to on your own.

  • Neutral sounding board. Since your mentor likely doesn’t have the same day-to-day experiences as you, they can bring a different, less emotional perspective to your questions and problems.

  • Knowledge of resources and tools. You’ve probably heard the old saying, “A craftsman is only as good as his tools.” Well, your mentor can show you where to find the best tools, saving you many hours and a lot of money.

  • Able to draw upon past failures and successes for reference. Even if your mentor is just a little ahead of you in their career, they’ve still had plenty of ups and downs. Then, they can teach you what they’ve learned from them and help you achieve similar successes and avoid similar mistakes.

  • Understanding of how to navigate the industry. Every industry has its own culture, quirks, and pitfalls, and your mentor can help you thrive in and despite all of these.

If you’ve been back and forth on the fence about seeking a mentor, stop procrastinating. Send that first message. The results will be worthwhile.

Tips for Being a Good Mentee

  1. Remember it’s a relationship. A mentorship is not a contract, meaning you shouldn’t approach it so directly. You don’t need to spell out the terms of the relationship and officially proclaim that you want a mentor.

    Think about how you connected with your best friend. You probably met each other in a casual setting, maybe at school or work. You started talking and discovering that you had common interests. Over time, you started referring to this close acquaintance as a friend, but can you define the exact moment that it happened?

    More likely than not, it was a gradual transition into a friendship role rather than a single defining moment where you asked to be friends and then instantly formed a close relationship. That’s how a mentorship needs to start.

  2. Respect your mentor’s time. Remember that no matter what profession or specialty your mentor is in, their time is valuable and shouldn’t be wasted. It’s generally good advice to define your time and questions before your next meeting.

    For example,

    Would you have thirty minutes to spare over a cup of coffee? I would like to get your perspective on some issues I’m struggling with in regard to my advertising budget.

  3. Reciprocate. If you want your mentorship to prosper, it’s helpful to show your mentor that their feedback is valued and appreciated. Send them an article that you thought was relevant to your last discussion. Let them know that you listened to the podcast they recommended. Tell them about how their advice impacted you when you implemented their technique.

    If the relationship is one-sided, the mentor is likely to get tired of answering an endless stream of questions with no reciprocated feedback.

  4. You can have more than one mentor. Chances are, your mentors will change as you advance in your career. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll walk the same career paths from your entry-level position to your end goal.

    Having multiple mentors is perfectly normal. In fact, it’s a sign of growth, and it means a broader range of perspectives to help shape your career goals, knowledge, and skills.

  5. Maintain your relationships with mentors. You should still keep in touch with past mentors even if they aren’t actively mentoring you. Let them know how you’re doing and show that you care about them by asking them about their lives. You may want to meet up with them again someday or connect them to someone else in need of a good mentor.

What Is a Business Mentor?

A business mentor is usually someone with entrepreneurial experience who can serve as a trusted confidante and advisor. They can be an invaluable resource to someone interested in becoming an entrepreneur.

Rather than helping you with your career goals, business mentors help you with your business goals.

Mentoring Vs. Coaching

Mentoring is often used synonymously with coaching, but the two relationships are different.

Coaching is usually a short-term relationship. Coaches often use motivation and creative strategies to help a client develop in a personal or professional capacity.

Mentoring is more of a long-term relationship, often a year or more, and it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. The mentee benefits by developing professional skills under the guidance and advice of a mentor, while the mentor benefits by developing leadership skills, which are great for resumes and career advancements.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to develop your professional skills, finding a mentor just might be the piece of the equation you’ve been missing.

Mentors are often found within our professional networks. That being said, shooting a message to a contact and randomly asking, “Will you be my mentor?” is weird and awkward. Don’t do that. You don’t just walk up to acquaintances and ask if they’ll be your best friend, right?

Mentorships should be casual and friendly, like a business friendship. And just like any other friendship, it has to grow naturally.

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Conner Martin

Conner is a professional writer and editor who has worked in a variety of different industries and media. He is passionate about communication and about making even complex topics accessible to wide audiences. Conner holds a Master of Professional Writing degree from the University of Oklahoma.

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