People in your corner can lend you the experience you need to navigate everything from career path to office politics. Here’s how to find a mentor that’s right for you.
What to Look for in a Mentor
First ask yourself what you want out of the mentoring relationship. Whether it’s advice on how to advance your career or how to balance your personal life, you need to identify the desired benefit before you can find the right teacher, advocate, networker or cheerleader you want in your corner. Since you’ll be able to leverage your mentor’s experience, you should of course consider people you admire for their leadership traits or skills. But in my experience as an Accounting and Finance recruiter, soft skills such as personality and culture also help determine a good fit.
You and your mentor needn’t share the same views on everything (they wouldn’t be a good mentor if you did) but it’s hard to grow a relationship without some common ground.
Your Boss as Mentor?
It’s natural to see your boss as a mentor, but this isn’t always the best choice for you, as your goals won’t always align. A manager is supposed to spend time developing talent but also wants to maximize productivity, while your goal may be to have your manager’s job in three years. While you should certainly seek out a mentor who’s a level or more above you, look for someone outside your specific area who can offer an alternate view and provide value beyond what you’re already getting in your everyday work experience.
Mentoring in the Workplace
Companies are always looking to attract and retain talent, and mentoring programs can be an effective way to leverage existing internal talent. One of my clients makes their mentoring program a focused selling point with candidates, going beyond the standard compensation discussions. It’s something to keep in mind when considering job offers. If your company does not have mentoring in the workplace as part of their career development opportunities, there may be professional organizations in your industry that do.
How to Get a Mentor to Invest in You
Frankly, be prepared to sell yourself on why you would be a good mentee. Mentors may gain a sense of accomplishment from having a protégé, but they understandably want to know you are worth investing in before taking you under their wing.
Offering gratitude for their guidance is a requisite, but you also need to come to the table with a reason they should mentor you, as well as ambitions for your future. No one wants to invest their time in someone who’s not going to make the most of it.
Are you currently a mentor, or have you been mentored in the past? If so, what advice can you share about building the mentoring relationship and making the most of it?