Much like finding a friend, finding a mentor isn’t something that you blatantly ask for and then receive. It takes time, relationship building and trust – a reason why many mentorship searches fizzle out before they even truly begin. At the end of the day, you wouldn’t give up on making friends just because it’s “hard.” Instead, you find a new approach and rely on the organic nature of human interaction.
If you want to find that perfect mentor, consider the following points:
Stop thinking of a mentor as a tool you have and instead, think of a mentor as a relationship you nurture. According to Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, “If someone has to ask [can you be my mentor], the answer is probably no.” Mentorship isn’t something you find hanging from the bottom branches of a tree. It’s even more unlikely a stranger will agree to be your mentor if they are a public figure. Take some time actually getting to know people and evaluate your role as a mentee. It isn’t all about what you can take. Find people you know and admire in your office or who you’ve come into contact with at some point in your career. Attend those extracurricular functions and volunteer for difficult projects. You’re bound to run into someone you can look up to.
Sometimes, it’s even better to think outside the box. Depending on the skills and qualities you admire, your mentor may not be in your career field. For example, if you’re a young entrepreneur with a tech startup looking for guidance, another successful businessperson or marketing director can offer significant insight even if they aren’t in the tech industry. The act of building a business, marketing it, and nurturing it contains immense knowledge that any beginner can use.
If you have no idea what type of mentor you’re looking for, take a step back and flesh out your needs. Pick a mentor who shares your values or believes in a similar mission. Someone who’s optimistic, straightforward, and encouraging would be your best bet. While you could opt for the bitter, jaded professional with 30+ years experience under their belt, this mentor may not be the best fit for you. Make sure you and your mentor have mutual respect.
In most cases, the person you want to mentor you has a million other things they could be doing besides sharing their wealth of knowledge. Because of this, it’s important to be someone who is enjoyable to mentor. Much like you would ask your mentor to be kind, understanding, and reasonable, you have to be the same. Be great at what you do, ask for more responsibility, and give credit where credit is due. Also put yourself in your mentor’s position. If you were them, would you want to mentor you?
The road to finding a mentor isn’t straight and narrow. There are many avenues and exciting ways to connect with someone who can help you when you need it most. Just remember, mentorship is always a two-way street.