It’s with good reason that mentoring is a popular career-furthering strategy. Mentors can share their experiences, introduce you to their networks and senior industry figures and guide you through challenging situations that will inevitably arise throughout your career. They might even see areas of improvement for you that you hadn’t even considered!
Anyone hoping to find a mentor however, should know that it’s a case of getting out what you put in. Ensuring the success of a mentoring relationship hinges on the commitment and participation of both parties equally. Read our tips on how to find a mentor that’s perfect for you, and learn how to extract the best from this rewarding professional relationship.
Why do you want to find a mentor?
What is it you’re hoping to achieve when you find a mentor? Is it the acquisition of specific skills? Are you looking to secure a senior role like theirs in the future?
Whatever your reason, make sure you’re clear about what it is you want to achieve, and write it down.
Having a clear mentoring objective will not only help you find the most suitable mentor, but ensure that the relationship – tasks you’re assigned, regular meetings, networking events – all have that goal at their core.
Where will you find your mentor?
While some companies have formal mentoring programs that make it easy for employees to find a mentor, if yours doesn’t, fear not. Finding a mentor independently can be a rewarding experience that allows you to really explore your industry and career aspirations, and find someone who’s committed to supporting you in achieving them.
The key is to find someone who can give you advice and inspire you to achieve your goals. There’s no perfect model for mentors, and great advice and guidance doesn’t necessarily have to come from within your organisation.
When searching for a mentor make sure you’re thorough. Always inquire about suitable mentors where you work, but don’t be afraid to cast the net wider by asking people in your network, searching online and participating in any relevant forums or groups.
When you’ve found a fitting mentor, be clear and honest in your communication with them. Think of it as a pitch. You need to stand out, but you also need to detail why you’re a suitable mentee and convince the mentor that you’ll work well together.
The key ingredients to finding a mentor (and keeping them!)
There’s a few things that all mentoring relationships should include, whether you’re in IT and looking to break into a new field, a financial planner looking for techniques to expand their portfolio, or a senior executive looking for guidance on how to transform workplace culture.
Your mentor will likely be someone senior; someone who is often busy with various high-level responsibilities. As such, being disorganised and late won’t work when looking for a lasting mentoring relationship. Alternatively, always being proactive and prepared shows respect, and means that time spent together can be used most efficiently.
Whether it’s in person, via email or over the phone, regular communication is vital to strengthening mentor-mentee relationship and tracking progress and success. While all forms of communication are good, we recommend a combination of face-to-face and digital.
If you’re not willing to be honest and upfront with your mentor, then you’ll likely not achieve the goals you set out to. Transparency allows you to talk with your mentor candidly about the issues central to your career and progression. It will also help you discover the most efficient and productive way of working together.
A large component of mentoring relationships is the exchange of feedback and criticism. Be resilient and use criticism constructively, channelling it into self-improvement and renewed approaches to work and projects.
An exciting, and indeed, often challenging part of having a mentor is that tasks given to you might produce outcomes you didn’t anticipate. Be open to different ways of doing things, be flexible in adjusting to how meetings are run, and always try new ways of planning.
Being able to recognise the signs of an ineffective relationship is just as important as knowing how to find a mentor in the first place! Be prepared to end the relationship graciously and recommence your search for a more suitable mentor when these signs show.
Finding a mentor and learning how to make the most of their time and experience will help keep you on track to achieving your goals, no matter what stage you’re at in your career. Mentors can learn a lot from these relationships too, as they get a chance to reflect on their own work styles and strategies. It’s not surprising then that mentees who seize every opportunity often make great mentors.
Take a look at our career development hub for more career tips and advice.