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How To Find A Mentor In Your Career

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No one ever succeeds alone. We are all influenced by other people, and the fastest way to get what we want in our career often involves modeling the effective attitudes and actions of others.

We can learn what successful people do and think by reading books, watching inspirational videos and interviews, and listening to podcasts. But having a “real life” mentor, who understands the challenges that you face in going from where you are to where you want to go, can be invaluable.

A mentor, who you can meet with you on a periodic basis, face to face (or at least over the phone) can hold you accountable, help you cut through your own inner resistance, and push you beyond your natural boundaries. The challenge is finding such a person.  It’s rare (although not unheard of) for a mentor to “advertise” their availability. Also, the people who you’d love to be mentored by are often so busy with their own successful life that they just don’t have a lot of time.

You can however find a valuable mentor in your career, and here are five very effective strategies to help you:

1. Don’t assume that your mentor needs to be working directly in your field

Some of the best mentoring and advice that I have ever received has been from successful people, who I looked up to and respected, and who had a career that was different from mine.  Their detachment from my industry allowed them to ask questions, and look at problems, from a very honest and unique perspective, and many times their advice was refreshing and innovative. Also, don’t assume that you should only have a single mentor.  Having multiple mentors, across various industries can be very helpful.

2.  The relationship has to be of reciprocal value

Before you can ask for something, you must be willing to give something, and you need to act first. This is a challenging one for many people.  You have to find a way to add value to your mentor. You are looking for them to give you guidance – what are you willing to give in return?  You might be thinking – well, they are already rich and successful – what do they want from me?  At a minimum, you must be willing to give a guarantee that you will execute their advice, track your progress and share your findings. You have to be willing to work hard.  There may be other ways to add value, so get creative. Perhaps you can be a referral service to them, or you could contribute to their charity, company or community.  If you don’t know ways you can add value you should simply ask.

3. Ask for a very small amount of time on a pre-determined schedule 

A large number of successful people truly want to give back (in fact they may even feel emotionally compelled to do so); however, their challenge is one of finite time.  Successful people often have huge demands on their time.  As a result, if you are seeking mentorship from someone who is successful you should start with a very small request, on a pre-determined schedule.  For example – a single phone call, or coffee meeting, every quarter.  As your relationship strengthens your meetings may become more frequent; however don’t be a burden from the outset. If you do, it is likely that the mentor relationship won’t materialize.

4. Come prepared for your meetings and be serious enough to follow through

If you are fortunate enough to get 15 minutes with your mentor, show how serious you are by coming prepared.  Do your homework.  Have a list of questions, take notes. Listen.  Most importantly, in the event that you get a follow up meeting (which you aren’t “entitled” to by default) show your respect by sharing with your mentor how you executed their advice, and the results that you got.  This will build goodwill because it shows how serious you are, and that you value their advice.

5.  Share the benefit: be a mentor to someone else 

If you secure a worthwhile mentor – share the benefit.  Be a mentor to someone else.  Reach out to someone who you think might benefit from your mentoring and invest in them.  What goes around comes around.  You never know who the person that you are investing in will turn out to be.  Don’t do it for the “potential payout” though.  Mentor others purely because you were once mentored yourself and it provided a great value in your life.

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About the Author

Ryan Clements is a business consultant, sales trainer, speaker and writer. He consults to companies and entrepreneurs on marketing and sales strategy, and is a frequent speaker and trainer in the areas of sales, marketing, entrepreneurship, productivity, leadership and motivation.  He also writes widely on these subjects and has published a book and given a TEDx talk on career fulfillment, a topic which he speaks often to schools and students about.  For speaking, consulting or training requests please visit his website at www.ryanclements.com.