A friend will tell you what you want to hear. A mentor will tell you what you need to hear.
~ John Di Lemme
~ John Di Lemme
If you are on the verge of choosing your career, or have been in your current field for quite sometime, or haven’t received that long sought promotion, whatever the scenario, a career mentor can pull you out or guide you through any career-related crisis.
Yet, it is surprising to see that not many people have mentors, and there may be various reasons for it like, “a career mentor is difficult to find”, “if they hold high and authoritative positions, then they are not approachable”, and the most common reason of them all, “I didn’t feel the need to approach a career mentor.”
Having a mentor is like asking another person to look at your situation from a different perspective and in a new light. It helps! Trust me, it really does! Asking for advice from someone who has been in your field for a long time, helps us to learn from his mistakes and avoid repeating those in our journey.
Is it really so difficult to find a good career mentor, let’s find out.
Define! But Not Very Specifically
You need to have a clear outline of who you want to become. While looking out for a mentor, you have to be specific but not rigid. On a piece of paper, define your career goal neatly, but do not be too detailed. Then, look at your goal and decide who matches most of the characteristics. Is it your goal to become a department manager, or a managing director, or a CEO. Based on that, you have to search for a mentor. You manage to find a mentor, but he happens to be just a manager, don’t worry! He may be able to guide you devotedly, to become a CEO. That’s why I mentioned about being specific but not rigid.
Put the Word Out
Let the world know that you are looking out for a career mentor. If you are working in an organization, and are looking out for someone from the same field as a mentor, drop hints when you are in groups. You will start getting random suggestions, but there will be one who will give you a specific suggestion, and you will absorb it like a sponge. You can always approach him/her later and ask for some sit-down time to discuss topics. You can also go the extra step by talking to your HR manager, about your desire to know about the company executives. By doing this, you will come to know who is the right person to approach and in which department he works.
Expand Your Horizon
Don’t narrow down your search group. Knock on more doors to increase the opportunities for your mentor to walk up to you. If you are a member of any charity group or an NGO, you can ask other members for suggestions. You can look out for someone at your church, amongst your friends, on social networking sites, or someone whom you see when you walk your dog in the park. The point is to just spread the word and show eagerness. Who knows, your mentor might be standing in front of you and might catch your intense desire to succeed.
Utilize Your Social Networking Skills
If you are a member of social networking sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook, then you can use these sites for mentor hunting. Yes! These sites can be used productively also. You can do an ‘Advanced Search‘ by typing in your university’s name and check if any person from the alma mater has risen to a position, where he can serve as a role model for you. You can also search by typing in your zip code or city or town’s name and cross your fingers. If you are lucky, you may find someone just next block.
Mentor Goes, You Follow!
Not in a literal sense, but yes, you should go where the mentors gather. I intend to say that if you are interested in finding a mentor from the public health field, attend conferences that are held on such topics. If you are an entrepreneur and want guidance from a successful businessman, attend inaugural events of new businesses. You would get meet a handful of businessmen en masse. You should actively look out for such events, and then show up there. After you sit through the program and spot that one guy, who you think would be able to play the role of a mentor in your life, go and approach him after the program.
Practice Flexibility and Better Preparedness
This point does not tell you about finding a mentor but tells you about how to behave well, and develop a sustainable relationship with your mentor. Normally, your mentor would be at least 4-5 levels above you and would be busy. Period. Realize this fact and stick to the schedule. If you want to meet him, ask beforehand and practice basic professional etiquette. Agree upon your mode of communication if it is not possible for him to meet you every time. Ideally, you should keep in touch with him so that you remain in his thoughts, but that again does not mean bugging him with every little problem you face. And finally, when you meet him, be prepared with the questions that you want answered. Don’t just go around asking a general question like, how did you get into marketing, or how did you achieve this position? Ask a concrete question like, how did you crack that deal with XYZ company? Be direct and to the point, instead of beating around the bush.
Along with these points, you should also remember that your personality and thinking style should complement with that of your mentor. This point is essential because if you are a little laid back and modest, and he is a go-getter, then over a period of time, looking at your lame approach towards your career, he may loose interest in guiding you.
Therefore, keep your expectations real and be assertive. Exude optimum self-confidence and positive attitude, and I can assure you that you’ll not only find a good mentor for life but also form a lasting relationship, which will help you grow by leaps and bounds in your career.