How to Find a Good Mentor

Many confuse a mentor and a boss, or think they are the same thing. However, they are quite different, both in terms of the role they play in your career and who they can be.

A mentor may be your boss or coach, but he or she may also be someone completely unrelated to your daily work. They are defined as “a seasoned professional who informally helps guide a lesser experienced person in their professional endeavours”.

Done effectively, mentorship is a mutually beneficial professional relationship where the experienced individual (the mentor) imparts knowledge, expertise and wisdom to the less experienced person (the mentee). This benefits both parties as the mentee develops professionally and the mentor hones his or her mentoring skills. Both also gain a great professional connection that may lead to other opportunities.

However, the truth is there are many more less-experienced “freshies” than there are experienced professionals. Also, a well-placed individual with many years in the industry is not necessarily a good mentor – he or she may lack the ability to guide and teach junior players in the field.

If you are just starting out, how can you find a good mentor? Start by:

1. Defining your career goals

You can only reap the benefits of teaching if you know what you want to learn. This principle applies to mentorship as much as it does to studying in class.

Sometimes, your company may have an established mentorship programme in place. In which case, communicate what you want to achieve clearly to the representative so they can find a good match for you.

2. Identifying your role models

These can be people within your organisation whom you would like to learn from, or celebrated individuals in your industry whom you aspire to be like. Focus on those who have a general idea of your current role and industry. A good mentor will be able to advise you on new projects to explore, certifications or training you need to get ahead, and how to manage office politics within your organisation.

3. Note down people in your network and industry

Next, look in your existing professional circle and identify potential mentors. These can be former bosses, former professors or teachers, co-workers in another department, or family friends. Prioritise 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.

4. Forming a professional relationship with them

Now, actively seek out these people and try to form a connection with them. If the person is someone you work with, look for his or her feedback and advice. For industry contacts, you may have to play a longer game. Join events, sign up for classes they teach, and make yourself visible.

A good way to start is by thanking them with the #JobscentralGoodPeople hashtag on LinkedIN or Facebook!

That said, strive to develop the relationship organically. Don’t go up to someone and ask, “Will you be my mentor?” A mentorship is like a friendship, it takes time and requires the correct fit without forcing.

5. Keeping in touch

Once you’ve met with someone and had an initial conversation, if you think they can provide valuable advice to you as your career progresses, make sure you follow up! With their permission, you can set calendar reminders for a quarterly meetup, or keep things casual by commenting on their social media.

Last but not least, acknowledge their contributions to your career with the #JobscentralGoodPeople hashtag! Join #JobscentralGoodPeople to thank the people who made a difference in our professional lives.