Feel like you could use a little extra career inspiration? Consider reaching out to a mentor. Having someone to check in with, and be accountable to might be just the push you’re looking for. Here are five steps to help you get started in finding the perfect mentor:
1. Think about what kind of guidance you need.
Before you look for the perfect mentor, think about your career goals, and what kind of guidance you are expecting. You’ll want to find someone you admire, whose opinion you respect, and with whom you’ll feel comfortable talking honestly with about your hopes and aspirations. You may want a mentor who’s currently working in your dream job and can tell you how to get there, but if that person isn’t within reach of your social circle, keep an open mind—and keep reading.
2. Consider your options.
Check if your current employer, your college’s alumni association, your sorority, or another group you belong to has a mentoring program. If they do, then that’s a great place to find a match. If not, look around in your own life. Whom do you look up to? It doesn’t need to be someone at your current company—and they don’t even need to be someone in your chosen career. Anyone who shares your values and helps you think about things from a fresh perspective could work as the perfect mentor. If you can’t think of anyone you already know, consider joining networking groups, or reaching out to people you have shared connections with via LinkedIn.
3. Watch out for red flags.
Your current supervisor might not make the perfect mentor, because you want someone with whom you can talk openly about challenges that arise at work—and those challenges might occasionally involve your supervisor. You might be tempted to ask someone in a high-level position to mentor you, but if she’s too busy to give you the time you need, she’s not the right choice. Avoid choosing someone with a big ego, because you want a mentor who’ll listen to you, not tell you how to run your life.
4. Make your approach.
This might seem like the easy part—to lock down the perfect mentor, all you have to do is ask, right? Wrong. Being too direct might scare a potential mentor away, because mentoring might sound like a big responsibility and a long-term commitment. Instead, try to keep things light and low-key at first. You might suggest meeting for coffee to pick the person’s brain. Come up with questions ahead of time, and ask for the advice you need. If it goes well, and you feel good chemistry with the potential mentor, set up another meeting a month or two down the line, and take the relationship from there.
5. Be ready to give back – both to your perfect mentor and others.
A mentoring relationship is a partnership, so look for ways that you can show your appreciation to your mentor. For example, if your mentor is less tech-savvy than you are, you might be able to offer her a few smart phone or social media tips. Another way to give back is to consider becoming the perfect mentor yourself for someone. The younger people in your life probably have questions about the things you’ve been through to get where you are. Be open to sharing what you’ve learned along the way.
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