How to find a mentor
The first step to find a mentor is defining what you want out of your career. This may not mean planning out your whole career – it’s important to leave room to go where things take you – but defining what you want in the short term can give you a clear path forward. Consider your career path and narrow it down so you can determine who has your dream job and who you admire, said Bill Driscoll, senior district president of technology staffing services in the Northeast and Midwest at Robert Half.
“Successful mentoring relationships happen when the mentor and mentee are the right match,” Driscoll said. “Reach out to someone you think you are comfortable with, who can be a neutral sounding board, and [who] will also provide great advice.”
You can also look in your own professional circle. These individuals can be former bosses, former professors or teachers, co-workers in another department, or family friends. As you look, try to prioritize someone who can give you long-term advice about your industry and has a good idea of your own company and what it takes to advance within your role.
“I think it’s probably best to have a combination of somebody who knows your internal organization well but not necessarily works there,” Salemi said. “They can provide that insight with having a grander view of your career’s growth.”
Someone who has a general idea of your current role and industry will be able to give you advice on things like new projects to explore, certifications or training you need to get ahead, and how to manage office politics within your organization.
Once you’re ready to reach out to someone, it’s important to keep things casual. Salemi said your approach to a potential mentor should be the same as an approach to a potential friend – your relationship will develop over time. Don’t force things; stay relaxed. Lessons and advice will come over time.
“It’s not like you’ll be at a conference and chat with someone sitting next to you and say, ‘Oh, will you be my mentor?'” Salemi said. “It’s a process. It’s kind of like when you think about friends in your life, how you met them and how maybe over the period of a year or so you’ve gotten to become really good friends … in the beginning, you didn’t say, ‘Will you be my friend?’ That would be completely awkward.”
The difference between mentorships and friendships, however, is in how you follow up.
Key takeaway: To find a mentor, define your career goals, identify your role models, narrow down someone in your network and industry, and casually form a professional relationship with them.