Why You Need a Mentor & How to Find One

No matter what your role is (self-employed, big company, small company) having a mentor is beneficial to your career and goals!  Check out today's post on why I think it's essential and how to find one.

Mentors or life/business coaches can help you with many aspects of your professional career. 

Clarity & Goal Setting:
Maybe you aren't sure what your next career step is or where you see yourself in 5-10 years. A mentor can come in with questions, almost like an unbiased counselor and help to clarify your next steps and future goals.  They can help you write out specific tasks and steps to achieve in short periods of time, and then follow up when it's time meet again. 

Constructive Criticism:
Mentors can provide a level of candidness your co-workers or family won't provide. Ask your mentor how you can improve your strategy to be better at reaching your goals. What skillsets are you lacking? Are you taking a situation out of proportion? When I'm facing a challenge at work, I like to get advice from my mentor on how I should best address the situation. 

Once you set goals, your mentor will help keep you accountable. You are much more likely to mark things off your check-list and push towards your goals when you know someone is rooting you on and following up regularly. 

Insight & Guidance
I like to find mentors at my company that have been there a long time because they know the intricacies and politics of that specific company. They can help provide a clearer picture for you on the organizational structure and where a good next step might be based on your experience and passions. They can also provide guidance on training, networking, and office politics. 

New Opportunities
Mentors can be great connectors. I'm the type of person who is always connecting people and I genuinely LOVE it. My ears and eyes are always open for new opportunities not only for myself but my friends and co-workers. Your mentor can help make introductions and connect you with people you might not have had the opportunity to meet. When choosing a mentor this is something you need to think about. I'm by no means saying you only choose a mentor based on their network, but be strategic about where they sit in an organization and make sure they are highly regarded. 

How to find a mentor:
If you are self-employed a mentor could be someone you look up to in your industry or a life/business coach you hire.  I've had a few official and unofficial mentors over the years, and my latest one was at IBM. He was a VP of marketing and was extremely candid and knowledgeable. I heard him speak at an internal conference and afterwards went up to him and struck up a conversation. We hit it off, and making conversation was easy. A week later I emailed him and asked him if he would be my mentor. I'm in the process of finding one at my new company now 😉. 

I think we naturally want to make it a super formal process, but try to keep it casual. Try to find a mentor that you get along with, and you feel like having a conversation would flow naturally. For me it's about finding someone you click with, but I'm currently experiencing how that's a bit more difficult in the virtual world. I'm on the search for a mentor to "click" with that I've never had a conversation with or met in person.  If this is the case for you, I would ask your boss or co-workers if they have someone in mind.  

Once you identify a potential mentor, set up a 1x1 to chat with them about their role/experience. Let them know of your intentions, but also try to get to know them as much as possible. You want to explore to see if this would be a good fit for both of you. Then at the end of the conversation or in an email after you can ask them if they would be open to being your mentor. Ideally you would be able to find a mentor in person and first make a connection with them and naturally build the relationship before asking. 

Once they are on board then you need to decide on the cadence. I would usually meet every 6 weeks, but the cadence is up to you both. If you can meet in person even better. Build out specific questions for each meeting and be up front with your mentor on your goals. 

Photos: Amy Wilborn | Location: Wish Well House

I hope this post inspires you to find a mentor or if you're later in your career to be a mentor yourself! I know it's beneficial for both parties. 

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