I credit a lot of my success to the mentors who have helped me with my personal development. I’m not defining success as promotions and great job opportunities – although these are benefits I’ve experienced along the way. Instead, I define my success as how much I’ve learned, and how much that knowledge has helped me in every aspect of my life (not just my career).
I’ve had mentors who have helped me through toxic relationships, with overall health and body image, with leaning into my creativity, and of course, in every job I’ve had.
Why having many mentors matters
There seems to be a perception (at least in the corporate world) that young professionals should seek out a senior leader, presumably one who has their dream job, and then meet with them bi-weekly to get help with catapulting up the corporate ladder.
Although that strategy may work for some, I would instead recommend seeking out a couple of mentors that you actually *click* with. Having mentors that you can have a genuine conversation with will be so much more beneficial – for you AND your mentors – than a stiff, forced discussion.
I also don’t recommend going straight to the top. If you’re an entry-level associate, you may not have a lot in common with an executive. These relationships are certainly possible, but from my experience, I’ve benefitted so much more from mentors who are just a couple of steps ahead of me. We have more in common, and the conversations around navigating certain complexities is more relatable. There is a lot to learn from senior leaders, but I find their wisdom is overall more general, even if I have specific questions.
Peer mentors are also extremely valuable relationships. Although they may be at the same level or life stage as you, they’ve most likely had different experiences. Sharing experiences = sharing knowledge. These are typically easier relationships to form, because even if you don’t have a lot in common, there is no hierarchal boundary.
As I mentioned earlier, mentors aren’t solely for the workplace. You can find mentors who can help you with your personal goals or guide you through tricky life situations (like a friendship that’s fallen apart, or getting in touch with your faith or spirituality).
To summarize – I think it’s important to have a few mentors in your life, who can help you with different aspects of your personal development:
- A mentor who is a few steps ahead of you
- A peer mentor
- A mentor for a very specific aspect of your personal development
How to find your mentors
I’m part of a committee at work that aims to advance women in the workplace. By far the question I get asked the most is “how do I find a mentor?”
In my experience, there are two main ways to find a mentor – and I’ve had a better success rate with one over the other.
#1 way to find a mentor
The first way is to be referred. I was fortunate in my first ever corporate job, to have a manager that saw my potential and offered to connect me with a mentor. She didn’t connect me with just anyone though, she tried to find someone who she knew I would get along well with.
I learned from that experience, and from then on asked for referrals myself. I would meet with my manager or colleague and let them know that I was looking for a mentor who could help me with a specific goal. This is crucial – being specific about what you’re looking for is SO important. My manager or colleague would then connect me with someone in their network that they thought would be a good match. Applying this outside the workplace – you can chat with friends or family members (again, about a specific goal) and ask if they know anyone you could connect with over coffee.
#2 way to find a mentor
The second way to find a mentor is to do your own research and then make a cold introduction. If you’re doing this in a professional setting, the easiest way is to check your company’s employee database and search for people who have jobs you’re interested in learning more about, or who are in departments you’re interested in joining – remember, be specific about your goal.
There are also online resources you can use to connect with others. For example, Meet Up has mentorship events, and Ten Thousand Coffees is a great way to connect with people from different companies (I joined as an alumni from Ryerson).
You can also join an association to find mentors – whether it’s a professional one, or one for your personal goals. As an example, I participate with Ascend, a nonprofit Pan-Asian organization for business professionals in North America.
How to be a good mentee
If you can only read one section of this post, it should be this one! Too often people are looking for a mentor for their own personal gain, but a mentoring relationship should be beneficial for both you and your mentor.
You’re asking someone to give away one of their most precious resources to you – their time. Make it worth their while.
Having a mentor is not the magic solution that will help you achieve your goals. You need to know why you’re connecting with your mentor in the first place. Are you interested in their job? Are you battling office politics? Are you trying to learn a new job skill?
Being specific will save you both time – something your mentor will appreciate. You may even want to send a note with an agenda before you meet. When I’ve mentored others, I am always more enthusiastic and present in the conversation when the mentee starts the conversation by saying “I’m dealing with X issue – I think you may have gone through something similar on Y project, and I’m wondering if you can help me”…instead of “So how do I get into marketing?”
Do good work
The reason why I believe I’ve been able to connect with my mentors so well is because I put in the work to show that I’m serious about achieving my goals. My managers were happy to connect me with others in their network because they trusted me and my work ethic.
Whether you’re trying to find a job opportunity or solve a complex personal problem, you need to show your mentor you’re serious about doing the work that will get you to where you want to go. Give them a reason to believe in you – it’s that simple (but not easy).
This one is a no brainer! Show your mentor how appreciative you are. They are sharing their knowledge, helping you problem-solve, and giving you their time. A thank you note goes a long way 🙂
And that’s all I’ve got for you! If you liked this article, or are interested in more career-related articles in the future, please let me know 🙂 Thank you so much for reading xox