As your students begin to develop their career plans, make their first steps into the career world, or seek to transition into a new field, they’re likely in need of guidance that get them off on the right foot.
At this point in their lives, your students may want to work with a great mentor, who can show them the ropes and offer road-tested advice that helps them navigate the process successfully.
But how do you find a great mentor? It’s a process that takes time, but reaps worthwhile benefits. In their book The Ultimate Job Hunter’s Guidebook, Seventh Edition, authors Susan D. Greene and Melanie C.L. Martel provide several important points that will make the search process more fruitful. We’ve summarized them below. Share them with your students… or use them as you seek a mentor for yourself!
Four tips for identifying the mentor who’s right for you
1. Begin your search among your existing connections. Ask your friends or family if they know anyone in your chosen line of work. If you’re already working for a company, or involved in an organization, check to see if they have an established mentoring program. You might also find a suitable mentor within the professional associations, civic groups, or service organizations with which you are actively involved.
2. Seek out someone who has the type of career and experience you admire. Where do you want to find yourself in the next five or ten years? Look for people who have been along the same path and successfully accomplished their own goals. Consider the individual’s work experience, as well as his or her character. Good interpersonal skills are important as well.
3. Look for someone willing to mentor you. Often, people are honored to serve as a mentor to someone who’s as enthusiastic about their field as they are. And, as Greene and Martel write, “Many professionals see mentoring as an opportunity to give back for their success” (295). If a person is receptive, that’s great! If someone isn’t able to work with you, then continue the search.
4. Consider how often you’re hoping to connect with a mentor, and whether or not the person could reasonably commit to that. How, and how often, are you hoping to connect? Some mentors & mentees meet on a monthly and weekly basis. Others catch up in person on a less frequent basis, while maintaining more consistent communication by e-mail or telephone. Others exclusively meet online, via Skype or other telecommunications tools. Whatever you do, determine that the schedule and meeting format would for both of you. If finding time to meet proves to be an almost insurmountable struggle, you might want to find someone whose schedule and communications preferences align more closely to your own. (Greene and Martel, 295-297)
What to do if you can’t find the right mentor
Haven’t yet found a mentor? There are still plenty of ways to glean from others’ wisdom and experience. Greene and Martel have some ideas:
- Find and follow relevant thought leaders and trend setters on social media. Subscribe to their blogs via RSS or sign up for their e-mail newsletters. Listen to their podcasts, or watch TED Talks to get informed and inspired.
- Read books by experts in your field. (Another tip: take notes as you read, and write down your reflections on the authors’ insights.)
- Sign up for a seminar or a continuing-education class that will help you hone your professional skills.
- Attend a conference where you’ll hear informative speakers and network with other professionals.
- Connect with like-minded individuals. Join a “mastermind group,” where you’ll explore and discuss timely and relevant ideas with others who share your interests.
- Hire a coach. Yes, you’ll typically have to pay for a coach; but in return, you’ll gain scheduled time with someone who’ll work with you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, set important goals, and become more personally and professionally effective. Many coaches work with individuals in specific fields, and can offer career-specific guidance. (296-297)
The flip side: how to be a great mentee
Just as it’s important to find a great mentor, it’s also critical that you become a great mentee. Quick tips:
- Respect your mentor’s time. Keep your appointments, show up on time, and keep an eye on the time as your discussion continues.
- Share your own insights, successes, and discoveries with your mentor. He or she will be encouraged to see what you’re learning, and also might learn something from you!
- Remember that your mentor is human… just like you. Focus on the positive traits your mentor brings to the table.
- When it’s time to move on, acknowledge and express your gratitude for all that your mentor has offered to you. (296)
For additional tips on being a great mentee, read our previous post: “Career Advice: How to Make the Most of a Mentoring Relationship.”
Reference: Greene, Susan D. and Melanie C.L. Martel. 2015. The Ultimate Job Hunter’s Guidebook, Seventh Edition. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
How do you advise students to find a great mentor? What steps did you take? Share your tips and advice in the comments.