Navigating a career path is intimidating no matter what route you choose, but you don’t have to go it alone. One of the greatest champions you can find in your career journey is a mentor; not just a teacher or advisor but a trusted ally and friend.
Yet while many professionals believe a mentor is a boon, only 37% of people have them according to a 2019 survey. This study found the majority of mentor-mentee relationships formed organically, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive and find one. If you’re looking to form a mutually beneficial relationship with a mentor, embrace these strategies!
Consider what you want first
Before you start your search, ask yourself what you’re looking for out of the relationship. Are you looking for someone with a specific title, someone in a desired industry, or general career advice? Reflect on the type of success you’re looking for, what your values are, and what type of feedback you respond best to.
Forbes’ Liz Elting says that if you’re not honest with yourself, you’ll end up wasting your time and your potential mentors. As a mentee, you need to be coachable and open to feedback, take the initiative to check-in, and be comfortable discussing your goals, according to LinkedIn’s Jon Jennings. So take time to do self-scouting before you start looking.
Check within your existing networking
Once you know what you’re looking for, start by looking within your existing sphere of influence. There could be someone at your company, a former professor or colleague, or a member of an alumni association that could be a good fit.
Indeed’s Jennifer Herrity says to look at the people you admire in your network and write down why. Consider who has the attributes you admire and what challenges they have faced in their career. Then, you can reach out and break the ice. Don’t be afraid to go through your LinkedIn or social media profiles to see if there is someone you haven’t considered. You may already have the ideal mentor in your network.
Take to the internet
Even if the ideal mentor isn’t someone you already know, don’t be discouraged. Social media and networking tools like LinkedIn are great places to make new connections. With more people working remotely than ever before, it’s a good time to digitally connect.
You can start by asking your existing connections if they know someone who could be a good fit for you. Even if that doesn’t work, you can try alumni groups if you went to a college or worked with a particular group. If all else fails, LinkedIn Groups are a great way to find something in your niche, according to FlexJob’s Kimberli Lowe-MacAuley. Using LinkedIn, you can search for specific groups, and LinkedIn will offer some tips to get started!
“When searching, you can begin adding topical keywords to target groups specific to your career field. Rather than type in “designers,” for instance, you can try “freelance graphic designers” to find a more targeted group. You’re sure to find a group that will suit your career goals.” – Kimberli Lowe-MacAuley
Once you find someone that seems like you good fit, you have the most nerve-wracking task ahead of you—you need to ask! You don’t need to write a note saying “will u be my mentor? y/n,” but you do need to find a way to ask that isn’t too forward or needy.
Harvard Business Review states that many ambitious career advancers will make their ask too soon—after just one or two conversations with a person. Being bold can be beneficial, but you want your request to have context and be a natural fit. You want to make sure this is going to be a good fit, and one conversation isn’t enough to know that.
Kimberli Lowe-MacAuley says that in your initial conversation, you’ll essentially be doing an elevator pitch and asking someone for their time. Explain why you admire them, what you hope to gain, and why you are worth their time. You don’t need to officially ask for the title of mentor. That relationship may just develop that way after having multiple conversations.
“You might also consider asking the other person to formally be your mentor, though this is not a necessity. While some people will be happy to take on the role of mentor, others might resist a formal title associated with increased responsibility. Use your own discretion when making this decision.” –Coursera
Remember: finding a mentor doesn’t mean finding the highest-ranked person you can find and copying their career path. You want to find a good fit, someone you can really connect with. You may have many different mentors at different stages of your career. In turn, make sure to be a good mentee and offer help where you can. And if you do find a good mentor, pass down that good fortune by becoming a mentor yourself in the future!