In 2022, there is no longer a question of if you should find a mentor for your career. Research has well and truly reaffirmed the notion that having a mentor can increase your chance of professional success.
Consider this: when compared to employees who have not been mentored, mentees are promoted five times more often. Not only that, but the mentors themselves are six times more likely to be promoted. These facts only scratch the surface of a wealth of research in support of mentorship.
More and more companies are catching onto the mentoring bandwagon, with 71 percent of Fortune 500 organizations now providing formal mentoring programs. If you're looking for a mentor, there's a good chance that you won't have to look too hard; but where do you start?
In this article, we'll explore how to find a mentor, and what you need to do in order to get the most out of your mentorship relationship.
How important is it to have a mentor?
Mentorship can sound like a corporate buzzword at times, but the widely accepted origin of this term actually dates back to Ancient Greece when young, aspiring athletes would be paired with an experienced coach. The idea is that the more experienced individual can provide guidance, support and advice to the less experienced person in order to help them grow and develop their skills.
In fact, there was a Mentor character in Homer’s Odyssey who served as a trusted advisor to Odysseus’ son Telemachus – and the Odyssey story dates back 3000 years!
Today, the term “mentor” is used more broadly to refer to anyone who can provide guidance and support in one’s personal or professional life. And while you may not need a mentor in order to become a world-class athlete, the benefits of having a mentor are undeniable for anyone looking to achieve success in any area of life.
Some of the key benefits of having a mentor include:
- Being embedded in workplace culture
- Learning from a more experienced professional
- Gaining access to important resources and contacts
- Receiving guidance on difficult decisions
- Improving self-awareness
In the business world, having a mentor is one of the best ways to go about upskilling and progressing in your career. So, if you’re looking to take your career to the next level, it’s important that you find yourself a mentor.
But how do you go about finding a mentor? And once you have one, how do you make the most of the relationship? Let’s dig a little deeper.
Where do you find a mentor?
Despite the facts mentioned above, only 37 percent of professionals actually claim to have found a mentor. If research isn't the issue, perhaps it's because people don't know how to find a mentor in the first place – and that’s the issue this article aims to address.
Let’s take a look through some of the steps required in order to find your ideal mentor.
1. Seek out role models in your organization
Start by looking outside of yourself for inspiration. You may find that certain people in your life have qualities that you admire and would like to emulate – so write down these qualities, as they will be key when searching for a mentor.
Some qualities might be:
- Leadership experience
- Strong communication skills
- Technical affinity
Once you have a list of qualities, start thinking about who in your life embodies these qualities. It's important to remember that a mentor doesn't have to be someone you know personally – consider your personal and professional networks and take note of the people who have the skills, experience and knowledge that you would like to emulate.
For example: do you have colleagues who have successfully climbed the corporate ladder and now hold senior positions? Or acquaintances who own their own businesses and are doing well? If so, it's worth reaching out to them and asking them if they would be willing to mentor you.
If you're struggling to identify any potential mentors in your personal or professional networks, don't worry – there are other ways to find them!
2. Look at your LinkedIn connections
Unsurprisingly, the next best place to begin looking for a mentor is LinkedIn. The site lets you see if any of your first-degree connections are mentors, and also provides a feature that allows you to search for specific skills or keywords in order to find potential mentors.
To look for a mentor through LinkedIn, all you need to do is head to the “People” tab on the main menu bar at the top of the page. From there, click on the “Mentors” sub-tab, and you will be able to see a list of all your first-degree connections who are also mentors.
If you don’t have any connections who are mentors, you can use the LinkedIn search bar to find professionals with specific skills or keywords that you would like to learn from.
For example, if you want to learn more about social media marketing, you could search for “social media marketing” in the LinkedIn search bar, and it will return a list of all the professionals who have that skill listed on their profile.
3. Look at influential professionals in your field
LinkedIn isn't the only place you can find a mentor. You can also look up influential professionals in your field in other social media networks or even databases. Once you have a list of potential mentors, start by doing your research on them and see if they would be a good match for you.
Things to keep in mind when conducting your research:
- Are they currently working in the field you want to be in?
- Do they have a lot of experience and knowledge to share?
- What is their personal or professional ethos?
- Can you see yourself learning from them and growing under their guidance?
If the answer to most of these questions is yes, then you should reach out to them and see if they would be interested in mentoring you.
4. Ask your peers if they know anyone you should meet
Industry professionals and LinkedIn searches are both valid ways to find mentors – but you'd be surprised at how many mentors are right under your nose. Ask your friends, family and colleagues if they know anyone in your desired field who would be willing to help you out. Odds are, they'll be able to introduce you to someone with the skillset and experience you're looking for.
Considerations when choosing mentors
Before you can find a mentor, you first must understand what you need. What are your weaknesses? What areas do you want to improve in? Starting your search without clear objectives is akin to writing an essay without knowing the topic or structure – so take some time to sit down and think about what you want.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What skills do you want to learn?
- What are your career goals?
- Who can help you achieve these goals?
- What type of mentor would be the best fit for you?
Once you have a good understanding of what you need, it'll be much easier to find a mentor that can help you achieve your goals.
Don’t seek a mentor who is exactly like you
With all of this in mind, it may surprise you to learn that one of the biggest mistakes people make when looking for a mentor is that they try to find someone who is exactly like them. They believe that this will give them an edge in learning from and benefiting from the mentor’s experience.
However, most mentorship relationships are based on trust, respect and rapport – and if you’re trying to build these things with someone who is exactly like you, it’s going to be difficult. Plus, there are many benefits to finding someone who is different from you:
- They'll teach you new things. If you choose a mentor who is different from you, you'll learn new skills, viewpoints and ways of thinking.
- You'll be more likely to stick with the mentorship relationship. Mentors can be a great source of support, but if they're not someone with whom you resonate on a personal level, it's going to be difficult to maintain the relationship for long.
- You'll get unbiased advice. A mentor who is different from you will likely offer impartial and honest feedback, which is something you can't always rely on from friends and family members.
- You'll gain a better understanding of the world. When you're exposed to different cultures, lifestyles, and belief systems, your perspective of the world will change. This can be extremely valuable in your personal and professional life.
More mistakes to avoid
Aside from choosing a clone of yourself as a mentor, there are a number of other mistakes to avoid when seeking out a mentor.
1. Choosing a close friend or family member to mentor you
While this may seem like a logical choice, it can often lead to conflicts of interest and hinder the mentor-mentee relationship. It's best to keep work and personal relationships separate whenever possible.
2. Choosing a total stranger
On the opposite end of the spectrum, it's also unwise to choose a total stranger as your mentor. You want to at least have a basic level of trust and rapport with your mentor in order to make the most out of the relationship.
3. Expecting too much or too little from your mentor
It's important to be realistic about what you can expect from your mentor. Don't go into the relationship expecting them to solve all of your problems or become your best friend. At the same time, don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. A good mentor will know how to give you just the right amount of guidance and support.
4. Pretending to be knowledgeable for the sake of ego
It's natural to want to put your best foot forward when meeting a potential mentor, but don't go too far in the other direction. Don't be afraid to admit you don't know something or that you need help. Honesty is key in any mentorship relationship.
With these pitfalls and potholes in mind, you’ll be far better positioned to successfully find a mentor who can help you achieve your professional goals.
10 steps to finding your mentor
Now that you know the benefits of having a mentor and the types of mentors available to you, let's go over the 10 steps to securing your mentor:
1. Identify 3-5 figures you want as a mentor. Don’t limit yourself to just one potential mentor. If you do, and it doesn’t work out, you may feel you failed and should give up. Having multiple prospects increases the likelihood that you’ll find one.
2. Make a connection and introduction. This is possibly the most difficult step, as it requires networking and stepping out of your comfort zone. If you found this individual through a colleague, make sure to explain the context of why you’re reaching out to them. Outline why you’d like to be mentored by them and what you hope to gain.
3. Ask for a casual meeting. If you’re able to get a meeting, even better. However, if the person is too busy or not interested, don’t be discouraged. Just keep following steps 4-10, and make sure you are giving your potential mentors a solid reason for meeting up with you.
4. Be appreciative of your mentor's time and follow-up. This is extremely important. Thank your mentor for their time, and let them know how you plan to apply the advice they shared. If you don’t follow up, it will be difficult for them to continue mentoring you.
5. Nurture the relationship. Just as you would with any other relationship, be sure to stay in touch and keep the lines of communication open. You don’t want to smother them, but make sure they know you’re still interested and invested. Keep them updated on changes in your career or growth. This will keep you top of mind for them.
6. Seek ways to help them. One of the best ways to get a mentor’s attention and keep them interested is to provide value to your mentor. Maybe it’s an introduction to someone in your network who would be valuable for them to know. Perhaps it’s as small as sending an article or resource that may be insightful. Do things that maintain the relationship and don’t make it one-sided.
7. Continue meeting and nurturing the relationship. Repeat the processes of meeting and asking questions that help you learn and give them the satisfaction of helping someone grow. Try to ask constructive questions that help them reflect on their experience and give you insights.
8. Formally ask them to be your mentor. Once you’ve determined that this is someone you would like to formally mentor you, it’s time to ask. This should be done in person or over the phone so that there’s no ambiguity. Be sure to express your gratitude for their time and willingness to help.
9. Build a mentorship relationship. Just like any other relationship, it will take time and effort to build a successful mentorship. Be patient and let the process evolve over time. If you need more advice on how to build this kind of relationship, be sure to refer to our resource blog post on how to build a successful mentor relationship.
10. Pay it forward and mentor others. As you grow your relationship with your mentor, use what you’ve learned to mentor other people who are less experienced than yourself. You will have gained mentorship skills through observing your own mentor, and it’s a great way to solidify those leadership skills as well as pay forward the generosity you were shown.
These steps aren’t a definitive, cut-and-dry list, but they are an excellent way to propel yourself into a mentee role and find the right mentor for you.
Finding a mentor remotely
Now that many of us have shifted to working online, finding a mentor must be carried out via the internet rather than in person. But where can you look, and how does remote mentorship differ from in-person mentorship?
Truth be told, you can still follow the exact steps outlined above in order to find a mentor in your local community. Modern technology means that it's simply more effective to find contacts through online spaces like LinkedIn and Zoom and to communicate with potential mentors through email and video chat.
Should you have a workplace mentoring program at your organization?
One of the best ways to ensure that all employees in your organization have access to a mentor is to have a workplace mentoring program. This type of program can be structured in different ways, but typically it pairs new employees with more experienced employees who act as mentors.
There are many benefits to having a workplace mentoring program. For one, it can help reduce employee turnover rates. Studies have shown that employees who have a mentor are more likely to stay with their organization for longer periods of time. Additionally, workplace mentoring programs can help employees learn new skills and develop their careers.
If you’re thinking about implementing a workplace mentoring program at your organization, Together is an excellent mentoring platform that can help make the process easier by matching mentors and mentees based on their skills, interests, and goals.
Depending on the support you receive from your organization, you may need to prepare a business case that advocates for the implementation of a mentorship program in your business. You can find all the information you need in our white paper, How to Build the Business Case for Your Mentoring Program.
People have been seeking out mentors for thousands of years. There’s just something about having someone to look up to, to guide you and help you grow, that seems incredibly valuable. And it is.
But how do you find a mentor? How do you know if someone is right for the role? Hopefully, the tips in this article have given you some ideas.
Finding a mentor can be incredibly valuable, but it takes time and effort. So take your time, do your research, and don’t be afraid to ask around for recommendations. The right mentor can make all the difference in the world.