If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how to find a mentor, I’d likely have saved enough for my dream trip to Bora Bora. When it comes to finding the perfect professional mentor to help advance your career, there are some common mistakes young professionals make—I’ve made a few of these misguided missteps early on in my career, too.
Many young professionals have a narrow and restrictive perspective of mentorship. Even worse, their approach to mentorship is oftentimes selfish and passive. It’s an ‘I’ll wait for my mentor to find me’ approach versus actively seeking out potential mentors. Further, when they feel they cannot find the “right” person or haven’t been “chosen” by the right person, they are easily disappointed or discouraged. Remember, just because you want a mentor doesn’t mean you are ready to or deserve to have one.
If your desire is to procure an in-person mentoring relationship with a senior professional and/or executive, here are five key things you should understand before pursuing mentorship.
Mentorship is Both Horizontal and Vertical
In addition to looking up to senior executives for mentors, look to your right and your left—some of your best mentorship and advice may come from your own peer groups. Don’t let tenure distract you from gaining valuable jewels from your peers.
Mentorship is Not a Shortcut to the Top
Don’t be the person who pursues a specific mentor only to ask for the shortcut, roadmap, or industry formula. Instead, look for ways to add value to your mentor’s professional life, too. Asking for connections or job referrals early on is a surefire way to sever a mentor relationship. Remember it’s about the person, not their position.
Understand Your Short- and Long-term Goals
It’s not only frustrating for a mentor but also wasteful if you are confused about what you need; get clear about your objectives.
Mentors Are Not Perfect
It’s important that you pick a mentor with similar core values and expectations. Make sure you are highly aligned on things like timeliness, communication, and commitment.
Mentorship is Not a Life Vest
As founder and CEO of curlBOX, Myleik Teele says, mentorship is not a life vest. You should not treat mentors as life preservers for your career. The relationship should not only be reciprocal, but mutually beneficial. You may not have the same depth of career experience to offer, but maybe you have insights on the up-and-coming technology you could share, for instance. And paying for a meal with your mentor as a demonstration of appreciation wouldn’t hurt either.
The value of a good mentor is priceless. In fact, a Management Mentors survey found that 80% of the CEOs it polled had mentors; and they attributed their access to insider knowledge, power, and fast-tracked careers to having mentors. Many claimed that achieving the same without having mentors would’ve been much harder if not impossible otherwise.
While an in-person mentorship relationship is ideal, you can also find some non-traditional mentoring gems from the likes of coaching professionals, blogs, podcasts, books, conferences, masterminds, and even social media.
Toni is the CEO & founder of The Corporate Tea, an online resource that provides unfiltered advice to help professionals navigate their careers. Toni is a career strategist & HR blogger with over a decade of experience in corporate America. For more insights and advice, follow her @thecorporatetea.