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How to Find a Mentor (and Why You Need One)

Think Oprah Winfrey, Indra Nooyi and Sheryl Sandberg made it to the top flying solo? No chance. These remarkable women—and countless others—attribute much of their success to a common source: their mentors.

These successful women demonstrate the impact that mentoring can have on your professional and personal growth. Whether you're juggling client relationships, salary negotiations, or even struggling with your career progression, a mentor can help you navigate each challenge using their “been there done that” experiences and insights.

What is a Mentor?

A mentor is someone who has more experience than you—someone who inspires you and has characteristics that you’d like to emulate. There are a ton of benefits to finding a mentor, and we’re going to explore a few reasons why having a mentor can maximize your personal success. 

They Stimulate Personal and Professional Growth

We often get caught up in our routines and forget to challenge ourselves, which causes us to become stagnant in our potential. But when you connect with a mentor, they’ll likely ask you questions that push you to reflect on your skills, your career and your goals. 

So instead of skating by and settling for an OK version of personal success, you’ll constantly be challenged as your mentor pushes you to reach higher and think bigger. Their real-life experiences can open your mind to new ideas and introduce you to opportunities that will encourage you to hone your skills. 

And the best part? They will often sit down with you afterward to reflect on your performance, and give you personalized advice on how to be even more successful next time. This kind of reflection and constructive critique will help you improve your problem-solving and critical thinking skills within the context of your career.

Mentors Can See Our Weaknesses 

Sometimes, no matter how reflective you are, it takes an outsider to shed light on areas in which you can improve. A mentor is usually the best source of constructive criticism because they provide a non-biased point of view, whereas your friends and family are likely to agree with you and encourage you to do what’s comfortable for you. 

While you may want someone to be your biggest cheerleader, a true mentor will be brutally honest and push you out of your comfort zone. 

A Mentor is a Trusted Advisor

Mentors are great sounding boards for your ideas and questions. Their real-life experiences are incredible reference points that can help you analyze your options in order to make the best decision. 

Sometimes, when we get fixated on an idea or project, we are so deep into it that we forget about the bigger picture. A mentor can provide you with an objective perspective in these situations and allow you to figure out what the right path forward is, taking into consideration all factors. 

How to Find a Mentor

Now that you know all the perks of having a mentor, it’s time to learn how to find one! There are a variety of places you can find mentors, including your workplace and networking events, and it’s often a good idea to have more than one mentor in your contacts list. 

Seek out a mentor who can help you achieve your career goals, and if possible, a separate mentor that encourages you to build a self-care routine.

  • Character. Whether it’s their management skills, strategic insights, or communication style, choose someone who has the skills and a track record of success that you want to emulate. 
  • Chemistry. Mentoring requires rigorous honesty and trust. You must find someone who welcomes your vulnerability with open arms and someone you feel a connection with.
  • Communication. Choose a mentor you can have uncomfortable conversations with. Find someone who is going to listen and be an imperial sounding board, while also being able to challenge your ideas and mindset. Remember, there is a difference between a mentor and a friend; it’s still a business relationship. 

Now that you know exactly what to look for in a mentor, you can start narrowing down your list of people you may want to reach out to--but we know that reaching out to people can be scary. Start small by following these tips, and you may be surprised who extends a hand back to you:

  • Invite a close colleague that you look up to on a casual outing for coffee. This is a wonderful way to start-up a conversation that will flow naturally. 
  • Reach out to a senior colleague that you may already have something in common with. Maybe you two went to college together, grew up in the same hometown, or absolutely cannot fathom a world in which cookie dough ice cream doesn’t exist. Your commonalities will likely lead to a natural connection that can grow over time. 
  • Don’t be afraid to send a cold email. Do you admire someone who graduated from your college, and that happens to currently be working in your dream career? Reach out! The worst they can do is say no or not respond--but you never know until you try.  

Finding a mentor can be the difference between feeling like a fish out of water and having a clearly defined strategy to achieve your goals. Mentors don’t tell you what to do, and they don’t provide advice that you’d get from your Management 101 class. Instead, they are full of real-life experiences and help nudge you in the direction. With a mentor in your corner to celebrate your successes and walk you through your failures, you’ll be able to find the right path to reach your professional and personal goals.