2021 Plans: Finding a Mentor

career mentor with student

If 2020 taught us anything, it was that flexibility is key! We may have had to rethink the ways we approach our goals as well as get out of our comfort zones. More often than not, seeking guidance, talking out ideas and getting advice is a great option as you navigate what you want to do next. One of the most beneficial ways to do this is enlisting the help of a mentor. 

Mentors can provide you with valuable advice and insight into their own paths and career journeys while helping you to develop your goals, hold you accountable and build your network. Sometimes it’s not easy asking for help or making the first move, so here’s how you can go about finding a mentor and being confident in getting the process started. 

Identify what you need help with

You’ll want to establish clear goals going into seeking a mentor. What do you hope to accomplish and what kind of support do you need from this person? Are there short-term goals you want to reach or are you planning for the next five to ten years? Identify what you hope this relationship will do for you and be prepared to include that in your outreach.

Start with your current network

Once you know what you need, it’s time to figure out who can help you get there. Is there a person in your life that has had similar struggles or who you aspire to be? Maybe they have experience in a field, industry or role that you hope to break into to. Be open to all possibilities as it relates to the type of mentor you hope to have; both personally and professionally. 

Go outside of who you know - EEK!

Sure, you might get a little nervous when you reach out to someone you know asking for a favor but, doing the ‘shot in the dark outreach email’ could be even more stress-inducing. First off, be sure to take on a humble and authentic approach. Introduce yourself. Tell them why you are inspired by them and what you hope to gain by connecting with them. Be polite, specific and clear about next steps (do you want them to follow-up with you via email, phone, etc.).

Need a conversation starter? Check these out.

Be realistic

Most likely your mentor is also a working professional and has their own personal life. Establish realistic expectations in terms of how they can help and how often you keep in touch. Do you want to check-in weekly via email? Maybe a bi-monthly phone call. Or even meeting in-person at a coffee shop to chat things over. Be sure that you both are on the same page when it comes to this commitment.

Reciprocate

The mentor-mentee relationship shouldn’t be a one-way street. Think of how you can also teach your mentor something new. Remember, they are volunteering their time to help you in the process so be prepared and punctual for every meeting that you have. You should also be making strides towards your goals after your meetings with your mentor so the next time you update them, you can showcase that you are utilizing the advice they provided. You never know how this relationship will impact the rest of your career down the road.

As always, thank them for their time and show gratitude for their support. A thank you note goes a long way.