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How to Find the Right Mentor to Boost Your Career

Updated: May 14, 2023

“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” — Oprah Winfrey
Image showing a boy giving a helping hand to a girl. The theme of the article this picture relates to is about finding the right mentor to help boost your career.

Have you ever wondered? All the successful people you see in the C-Suite, how did they reach that point in their career? How did they become so successful at what they do? I know I have. Multiple times. And the answer always comes back to two things:

  1. They never stopped learning and possessed a growth mindset

  2. And, they had an incredible mentor to guide and support them

The first one is what we can all do as it doesn't require much from outside forces. All you would need are resources (which we have plenty of in these times, thanks to the magic of technology) and some discipline and determination if you want to achieve the ultimate goal in your career.

The second one takes a bit of work (alright, a lot of work, and time) but if done right, it can be the most beneficial investment for accelerating your career.

But how do we begin the process of finding a mentor? And how do we know if we've found the right mentor for ourselves? Those are questions that very few can answer, hence, we have so few people in the C-Suite while the majority of us get stuck with our 9-5 jobs throughout our lives without ever achieving anything.

You know, there's also one more thing to consider. What if you do have a mentor right under your nose but you are not aware of them? That's also a possibility.

So, let's dive a little deeper into understanding what a mentoring relationship looks like, how to find a mentor, and how to build a mentoring relationship with them.

'Finding the Right Mentor'

Is there a person in your workplace whose values align with your values? Is there a person who is at a higher, authoritative position and has the strengths and skills that align with your aspirations? If you answered 'yes' to both of those questions then that person might be your potential mentor.

Now, in a mentoring relationship, both the mentor and the mentee need to invest considerable time and energy to keep the relationship fruitful and effective. So I would not recommend for you to simply go up and ask them upfront if they can be your mentor. This might create an awkward situation for them as they might want to work with you but might not have the time for it. So be very careful when you approach a potential mentor.

What I would recommend is to first identify a number of people who have a higher position, who share your values, and have the strengths and skills that you wish to learn. Once you have identified them, start observing their behaviour, their communication style, their work ethic, their personality, their strengths and weaknesses. This might sound like you are spying on them but these are all important steps for you to find the right mentor.

The more you observe, the better chance you have to find the right mentor.

Let's move to the next step.

'Building the Mentoring Relationship'

Is there a person in your workplace whose values align with your values? Is there a person who is at a higher, authoritative position and has the strengths and skills that align with your aspirations? If you answered 'yes' to both of those questions then that person might be your potential mentor.

The second approach is usually the best one, as it allows you to build a relationship with your mentor naturally and without really asking they understand that you look up to them and see them as a mentor. They won't feel bound to be your mentor but at the same time they will provide you with assistance and guidance as and when you need it.

For example, you attended a conference where they were speaking on a topic that interested you. After their session, go up to them and start a conversation around the same topic, share your opinions about the topic, what you found most interesting about their speech, what were the points that resonated with you. Later on, connect with them on LinkedIn with a note on how wonderful it was to have a conversation with them and how you'd love to stay connected in the future for more tips and advice.

The same can be applied to someone in your workplace, whether it's a superior in your own department or another department. It would be easier to build a mentoring relationship with them since you would be able to meet them in-person at work.

As you continue to communicate with your mentor, your conversations will feel more natural. You'll be comfortable sharing your opinions and receiving their feedback. Over time, your mentoring relationship will feel more authentic.

'Maximizing the Mentoring Relationship'

You found a mentor, you successfully built a mentoring relationship with them. Now it's time to maximize on it to boost your career. Start with emulating their behaviours and their communication style. How do they write emails? How do they speak? How do they use their presence and body language to captivate their audience? Practice, practice, practice. Note down the results that you see and connect with them when in doubt.

If they gave you a piece of advice and it worked, send them a thank you note. If they gave you advice and it didn't work, go back with questions. Take in their feedback and use it to your advantage. They are in that position because they worked hard for it and they have the experience that you can use for your own career growth.

Ask them for book recommendations, any articles they find informative, podcasts they find interesting. Learn about them and apply them to your career.

Mentoring relationships should be built for long periods of time so you should begin with the mindset that you'll stick to it for years to come.

Also, remember, it's not necessary to have only one mentor to guide you. You can have more than one mentor to expand your network and use the tips shared by them in various scenarios as you see fit.

Happy working!

- The Other Working Woman

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