How to find a suitable professional mentor

What Is a Mentor and What Does a Mentor Do to Develop Your Employees?

How to find a suitable professional mentor

Susan Heathfield is an HR and management consultant with an MS degree. She has decades of experience writing about human resources.

Mentoring is a formal or informal relationship established between an experienced, knowledgeable employee and an inexperienced or new employee. The purpose of a mentor is to help the new employee quickly absorb the organization’s cultural and social norms.

Or, the mentor helps the continuing employee grow in their current position and become ready for new jobs and career opportunities. Mentoring can also assist an employee, new to a specific job or area of responsibility, to quickly learn what they need to know to succeed in their job and role.

An overall career mentor can help an employee develop skills, take on more challenging roles and responsibilities, and generally, guide the progress of an employee's career. This individual may work in the employee's organization or, more likely, the relationship may have developed several companies ago or from a professional association relationship.

A Mentor Is a Sounding Board, Sometimes an Evaluator

A mentor can also serve as a sounding board as the new employee is assimilated into the company. The mentor can help the continuing employee become more knowledgeable and effective in their current job. They help continuing employees reach new levels of knowledge, sophistication, and career development.

The best mentoring relationships involve the exchange of a particular body of knowledge that helps the new employee quickly come up to speed as a contributor within your organization.

The mentoring relationship can also be evaluative in nature to assess the assimilation of the new employee in his or her new role. Mentoring is provided in addition to your new employee onboarding process and should have different content and goals.

Mentoring helps the employee navigate the learning curve inherent in any new role, organization, or relationship.

New Employee Mentors in Onboarding

Many organizations assign a mentor as part of their formal employee onboarding process. Other mentoring relationships develop spontaneously and over time. All mentoring relationships are encouraged as research indicates that employees who experience mentoring are retained, learn more quickly, and assimilate into the company culture more effectively.

"A recent Harvard Business Review article reports, “Research on junior to mid-level professionals shows that [mentorship] programs enable them to advance more quickly, earn higher salaries, and gain more satisfaction in their jobs and lives than people without mentors do. For employers, the benefits are not only higher performance but also greater success in attracting, developing, and retaining talent.” (deJanasz and Peiperl, 2015, p. 101).  

A mentor is provided in addition to the other components in a new employee onboarding process. A mentor for employee onboarding may be the peer of the new employee, a coworker who is more knowledgeable and experienced or a supervisor or a team leader.

Mentoring by Immediate Managers

A mentoring relationship frequently occurs between an employee and their immediate manager; in fact, this was the normal mentoring relationship in the past. These mentoring relationships are still encouraged, but it is recommended that employees and organizations pursue additional mentoring relationships.

A mentoring relationship with an immediate manager or supervisor never loses the evaluation aspects necessary for the employee to succeed within your organization including decisions about pay and promotions.

Mentoring is a skill and an art that can be developed over time through training and participation.

The Mentoring Buddy

In many organizations, an employee, sometimes called a buddy, is assigned to a new employee for new employee orientation and onboarding. The buddy performs a role that is like the mentor's, but the buddy is usually a coworker and/or a more experienced peer of the new employee.

The mentoring buddy is expected to do everything that he or she can to assist the new employee to become fully knowledgeable about and integrated into the organization. The buddy relationship can last a long time, and the employees may even become friends.

Often working in the same or a similar job in the organization, the buddy plays a special role in helping the new employee become comfortable with the actual job by training him or her. The buddy is also responsible for introducing the new employee to others in the organization.

A good buddy provides additional assistance such as taking the new employee out to lunch with a small group. Another responsibility of an employee or coworker buddy is making sure that the employee is meeting the appropriate managers and members of the senior team.

A buddy in conjunction with an effective new employee orientation will bring an organization a successful new employee.

Seeking Out Additional Mentors

Additional relationships with a mentor can develop spontaneously and over time. Or, an employee can seek out a mentor because he or she wants to experience the power of a mentoring relationship in his or her career growth.

These unassigned mentors are often a more experienced employee or manager who can offer the mentee (employee receiving mentoring) additional information that the employee wants or needs. For example, a product team member seeks out a mentoring relationship with the manager of the marketing department.

He or she hopes to learn how to understand markets and customers better before the team develops a product that no one wants to buy. This type of sought out mentoring relationship can foster much success in an organization.

Mentoring Relationships Are Powerful

Another instance in which a mentoring relationship is powerful occurs when an employee identifies career skills that he or she lacks. The employee then seeks out an individual in the organization who exhibits these skills and identifies that the employee is someone from whom the employee seeking a mentor believes they can learn the skills.

In a less frequently pursued mentoring relationship, an employee can reach out to a professional they admire who works in a different organization. This mentor will lack the experience and understanding of the employee's current organization. This is offset by the mentor's general knowledge and experience in other organizations.

These relationships generally form when an employee reaches out to a more experienced colleague. Or, they develop professionally over time through a relationship developed through such activities as an active professional association membership.

Working with a mentor can be exceedingly valuable for anyone who wants to grow in their career. Mentors can provide insights into specific professional situations, negotiation tactics, opportunities and career path goals.

Finding a good candidate and asking them to be your mentor can feel challenging. It well worth it, however, to gain a trusted advisor and guide. In this article, we will discuss the best ways to find and engage with a mentor.

What is a mentor?

A mentor is someone who extends guidance to another person through experience by offering advice, building trust and listening and responding to questions and concerns. In order to mentor, an individual must be engaged, aware of the needs of the person they are mentoring, authentic and dependable.

In a professional sense, a mentor must also exhibit the attributes that are necessary to succeed in a specific industry or field. The purpose of a mentor is to provide guidance to someone who is starting out in a new field, exploring a new career path or simply wishes to succeed in their current position.

Some benefits of mentorship include:

  • Building professional connections for future opportunities
  • Having a reliable source for a letter of recommendation
  • Gaining honest feedback about your strengths and areas for improvement
  • Identifying opportunities and resources to build key skills
  • Having support during the hiring process for resume editing, practicing interview questions and developing an elevator pitch

How to find a mentor

Follow these steps to find a mentor who can support you by providing the insights and assistance you need.

1. Reflect on whether mentorship is a good fit for you

Consider your attributes and whether you would be a good mentee. Ask yourself whether you would be someone you would like to mentor. If not, why? Are you respectful, willing to work hard, flexible and open to feedback and criticism? In order to succeed in a mentor-mentee relationship, you must be actively building your skills and looking to advance in your career.

2. Identify your mentorship needs

Consider outlining the goals you have set for your own professional growth and think about what it would take to achieve those goals. This can be a starting point for your conversations with your mentor. It can also help you to select someone who can help you achieve those goals.

3. Select people to ask for mentorship

When considering people in your life that may be a good candidate for a mentor, think about the individuals who are ahead of you in terms of their careers or professional growth. Another way to identify possible mentors is to seek out those who have the position you wish to grow into in the future.

4. Start with your personal network

There are several places you can begin searching for mentors. Some examples include family connections, professional associations, your workplace, nonprofit organizations, local businesspeople and volunteer groups. When searching for a mentor, look for inspirational and successful people in your life. Before someone will mentor you, they will likely need to see your potential in the industry, as well as your willingness to work hard and succeed.

5. Prepare your elevator pitch

Be prepared to confidently share your goals, why you think this person is the right mentor for you and what your expectations are of them. Setting clear expectations in the initial conversation—including the time commitment involved—provides your potential mentor with the information they need to give thoughtful consideration to your request.

How to ask someone to be your mentor

Before you ask someone to be your mentor, you want to be sure you're asking the right person. If you feel confident that the individual you're planning to ask would have a vested interest in your success, as well as have the time to invest in your growth, the next step is asking them to invest in a mentor-mentee relationship with you. Be mindful that being a mentor is a considerable responsibility.

1. Schedule a meeting

If possible, try to meet with your potential mentor in person rather than asking over email.

2. Explain why you are seeking mentorship

The more clearly your potential mentor understands your needs and expectations, the better. By explaining what you hope to gain from mentorship and offer as a mentee, they can properly assess whether the relationship would be a good fit for them.

3. Explain why you selected them

Explain why you selected them and how much you value their expertise. When you can make a clear case for what you want from a mentor relationship and why you are asking this individual to become your mentor, you are more likely to receive a positive response.

If your potential mentor seems uncomfortable or skeptical, it's best to step back and keep looking. Even if they want to, they might also simply not have the time or capacity to offer you effective mentorship at that time. A good mentor must be invested and excited for it to be mutually beneficial.

Business mentors

When you're looking for a business mentor, it's important to look for an individual who exhibits a few key attributes. They should be successful in the field and possess the skills needed to advance in their careers. However, success is not the only indicator of a good mentor. In fact, a mentor should have the attributes of a good trainer or teacher. A mentor should also be willing to share their expertise, skills and knowledge with you.

If you feel like you're struggling to form a personal relationship with a potential mentor, you may want to look for someone else with whom you can establish a connection. A good mentor should be invested in your success and take the responsibility seriously.

It's also important for a mentor to value growth and ongoing learning. When working with mentors, you should feel comfortable receiving constructive feedback and criticism, and they should feel comfortable giving it. Growth happens when you can identify your strengths and weaknesses, using them to learn and be successful to achieve your career goals.

After you form a relationship with your mentor, you should maintain it through regular contact. You might decide to set up weekly one-on-one meetings, for example. Be clear about your expectations of the relationship, ask questions, request guidance and learn from your mentor as much as possible.

When mentors offer constructive guidance and criticism, it's important to accept and implement the guidance into your professional life. Having a mentor is a great help as you navigate your career path to achieve success.

Working with a mentor can be exceedingly valuable for anyone who wants to grow in their career. Mentors can provide insights into specific professional situations, negotiation tactics, opportunities and career path goals.

Finding a good candidate and asking them to be your mentor can feel challenging. It well worth it, however, to gain a trusted advisor and guide. In this article, we will discuss the best ways to find and engage with a mentor.

What is a mentor?

A mentor is someone who extends guidance to another person through experience by offering advice, building trust and listening and responding to questions and concerns. In order to mentor, an individual must be engaged, aware of the needs of the person they are mentoring, authentic and dependable.

In a professional sense, a mentor must also exhibit the attributes that are necessary to succeed in a specific industry or field. The purpose of a mentor is to provide guidance to someone who is starting out in a new field, exploring a new career path or simply wishes to succeed in their current position.

Some benefits of mentorship include:

  • Building professional connections for future opportunities
  • Having a reliable source for a letter of recommendation
  • Gaining honest feedback about your strengths and areas for improvement
  • Identifying opportunities and resources to build key skills
  • Having support during the hiring process for resume editing, practicing interview questions and developing an elevator pitch

How to find a mentor

Follow these steps to find a mentor who can support you by providing the insights and assistance you need.

1. Reflect on whether mentorship is a good fit for you

Consider your attributes and whether you would be a good mentee. Ask yourself whether you would be someone you would like to mentor. If not, why? Are you respectful, willing to work hard, flexible and open to feedback and criticism? In order to succeed in a mentor-mentee relationship, you must be actively building your skills and looking to advance in your career.

2. Identify your mentorship needs

Consider outlining the goals you have set for your own professional growth and think about what it would take to achieve those goals. This can be a starting point for your conversations with your mentor. It can also help you to select someone who can help you achieve those goals.

3. Select people to ask for mentorship

When considering people in your life that may be a good candidate for a mentor, think about the individuals who are ahead of you in terms of their careers or professional growth. Another way to identify possible mentors is to seek out those who have the position you wish to grow into in the future.

4. Start with your personal network

There are several places you can begin searching for mentors. Some examples include family connections, professional associations, your workplace, nonprofit organizations, local businesspeople and volunteer groups. When searching for a mentor, look for inspirational and successful people in your life. Before someone will mentor you, they will likely need to see your potential in the industry, as well as your willingness to work hard and succeed.

5. Prepare your elevator pitch

Be prepared to confidently share your goals, why you think this person is the right mentor for you and what your expectations are of them. Setting clear expectations in the initial conversation—including the time commitment involved—provides your potential mentor with the information they need to give thoughtful consideration to your request.

How to ask someone to be your mentor

Before you ask someone to be your mentor, you want to be sure you're asking the right person. If you feel confident that the individual you're planning to ask would have a vested interest in your success, as well as have the time to invest in your growth, the next step is asking them to invest in a mentor-mentee relationship with you. Be mindful that being a mentor is a considerable responsibility.

1. Schedule a meeting

If possible, try to meet with your potential mentor in person rather than asking over email.

2. Explain why you are seeking mentorship

The more clearly your potential mentor understands your needs and expectations, the better. By explaining what you hope to gain from mentorship and offer as a mentee, they can properly assess whether the relationship would be a good fit for them.

3. Explain why you selected them

Explain why you selected them and how much you value their expertise. When you can make a clear case for what you want from a mentor relationship and why you are asking this individual to become your mentor, you are more likely to receive a positive response.

If your potential mentor seems uncomfortable or skeptical, it's best to step back and keep looking. Even if they want to, they might also simply not have the time or capacity to offer you effective mentorship at that time. A good mentor must be invested and excited for it to be mutually beneficial.

Business mentors

When you're looking for a business mentor, it's important to look for an individual who exhibits a few key attributes. They should be successful in the field and possess the skills needed to advance in their careers. However, success is not the only indicator of a good mentor. In fact, a mentor should have the attributes of a good trainer or teacher. A mentor should also be willing to share their expertise, skills and knowledge with you.

If you feel like you're struggling to form a personal relationship with a potential mentor, you may want to look for someone else with whom you can establish a connection. A good mentor should be invested in your success and take the responsibility seriously.

It's also important for a mentor to value growth and ongoing learning. When working with mentors, you should feel comfortable receiving constructive feedback and criticism, and they should feel comfortable giving it. Growth happens when you can identify your strengths and weaknesses, using them to learn and be successful to achieve your career goals.

After you form a relationship with your mentor, you should maintain it through regular contact. You might decide to set up weekly one-on-one meetings, for example. Be clear about your expectations of the relationship, ask questions, request guidance and learn from your mentor as much as possible.

When mentors offer constructive guidance and criticism, it's important to accept and implement the guidance into your professional life. Having a mentor is a great help as you navigate your career path to achieve success.

How to find a suitable professional mentor

Mentoring, simply put, is the act of an individual sharing their knowledge, skills and/or experience, to help another individual to progress. Mentoring can be applied to all aspects of life, such as personal, educational and professional growth. At PushFar, we focus on professional and career mentoring. We know that finding a mentor can be a challenge, but mentoring is vital for career progression and success.

Mentoring can be carried out either face-to-face, over the phone, on a video call or sometimes even via messaging platforms. Mentors typically mentor their ‘mentee’ for anywhere from a few weeks to several years, with most mentoring relationships lasting for around 6 months. We always recommend starting a mentoring relationship for 6 months, with an introductory mentoring meeting to kick-off the professional relationship.

There are no formal rules to mentoring and it is designed to be flexible. Mentors and mentees can both set the expectations and work out what works best for themselves. Mentoring meetings usually last for between 30 minutes and an hour, but some meetings might be even shorter and provide a brief update between the mentor and mentee. Ultimately, the aim of mentoring is for the mentor to support the mentee with their objectives. Mentoring is not about management but rather about goal setting and career progression, with support from someone who has had personal experience of certain challenges in their own career.

How can I Find a Mentor?

How to find a suitable professional mentor

There are a vast number of ways in which an individual can work to improve the efficiency of their career progression and climb the career ladder at a greater rate. Below are a few key ways in which you can do so.

  • Networking

Professional networking is a fantastic way to both level-up your career but also can be a great way to meet others both within your industry, company, city and further afield too. Networking can increase the chances of meeting other professionals who might be a good mentoring fit. So, we would definitely recommend ensuring you are proactively networking, where possible. There are lots of different ways in which you can network and we’ve written an article with a few top tips to help you. You can read our professional networking article here. When networking to find a mentor, make sure those you are speaking with know that you’re looking for a mentor and understand what you are looking for from a mentor too. Attending networking events, exploring virtual networking communities, online professional networks and exhibitions where there are networking break-out sessions are all great ways to begin networking to find a mentor.

  • Asking Your Manager

If you are working in a larger organisation then there might be an existing mentoring programme that you can join. A lot of companies offer mentoring schemes, programmes and networks, to help employees to find mentors and mentees. Ask your manager whether they can either advise you on a mentoring programme within the company or whether they can find you a mentor within the company. If your manager is unable to provide you with effective advice, then the best department to speak with is HR and/or learning and development. Human Resources are almost always the department charged with mentoring programmes, mentor matching and career progression, so they may well know about how to find a mentor, even if your manager does not. Finding a mentor in an organisation doesn’t necessarily require you speaking to your manager either though. You can always take the initiative to network within your organisation to find a mentor.

  • Alumni Networks

Some schools, colleges and universities offer old-student alumni networks. These can be a great place to go to find people who’ve shared educational experiences as you. These alumni networks sometimes also offer mentoring programmes as well. So, have a look at what your old school, old college or old university is doing on the alumni network front and see whether there might be some way in which you can find a mentor through these channels. What is more, even if your old school, college or university doesn’t offer any mentoring scheme, you could always offer to start one. Educational institutes almost always keep alumni networks active and would usually encourage mentoring schemes.

  • PushFar

PushFar is a network that can help connect you with other professionals and experts in your industry and industries you are looking to work in. Launched early in 2019, PushFar has developed a platform to help you to find a mentor and to stay on top of career progression in a number of exciting aspects of the day-to-day professional world. From networking events and job opportunities through to mentor connectivity and day-to-day work planning, PushFar is the answer to helping you PushFar. With thousands of registered mentors and mentees, our platform helps professionals and students to find a mentor, manage mentoring relationships, set goals, schedule mentoring meetings and much more.

  • Family & Friends

If you’ve tried all the other suggested options above and you’re still struggling to find a mentor, then approaching family members or friends might be a good alternative. While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend appoiting either a family member or a friend as a mentor (as mentoring works best when it’s kept professional and slightly removed from your personal life), it may well be that family members or friends will have access to a suitable mentor for you within their own networks’. So, make sure you ask your family and friends whether they know anyone suitable to be your mentor. You never know who they might be able to introduce you to.

Can I Find a Mentor Online?

How to find a suitable professional mentor

Yes! You absolutely can find a mentor online. There are some incredible online mentoring resources, tools and platforms designed to help you to find a mentor. At PushFar, we run a network with thousands of professionals and students, connecting, networking and ultimately finding themselves a mentor or mentee (or often both!). Our mentor matching can help mentors and mentees to be matched with suitable individuals, based on experience, skills, locations and industries. Mentoring online can be done via Skype, or similar video call tools, messenger or even used to schedule in face-to-face mentoring meetings.

How to find a suitable professional mentor

A career mentor is someone who shares their knowledge and expertise with you in order to help you set goals, fix problems, and make good choices along your career path. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a mentor—or several—who will help you throughout your career, from your first roles through to retirement.

What Does a Career Mentor Do?

Often, but not always, a mentor may be a supervisor. A really great manager may demonstrate—or directly tell you—how the business world works, and how to be successful in it.

Not all managers make great mentors. If your manager isn't investing time in you, providing advice, or acting as your advocate, look elsewhere for a mentor.

How a Mentor Can Help Your Career

Here are some of the ways that mentors can help throughout your career:

  • Showing or telling you the best way to communicate with colleagues, customers, and clients
  • Serving as advocates for your career in your current role—that is, a mentor may help you move up the ladder at your workplace
  • Helping with your job search
  • Providing advice, insight, and wisdom

A good career mentor voluntarily provides career advice and assistance. The relationship you’ll have with your mentor will be ongoing—your mentor can guide you throughout the life of your career. It’s a relationship that can last a very long time. A mentor can be indispensable, both when you're starting out and when you're moving up the career ladder.

Who and How to Ask for Help

How do you find a mentor? It can be easier than you think. Gets tips and advice on finding a career mentor.

Perhaps the most important step in pursuing a dream job is to find someone who already works in that field who can offer guidance and advice as you proceed. It sounds intimidating, but don’t shy away from reaching out to potential mentors—even if you aren’t previously acquainted.

People often express fear at the prospect of asking someone for help as a prospective mentor, but it's very likely that even a total stranger will respond positively.

Keep in mind that people like helping others, and this request is a real compliment.

By asking a prospective mentor for help, you’re letting them know you admire them for what they do and that their career experience is in demand. It’s a good feeling, and many people are happy knowing their experiences and insights are valuable to others.

Of course, you may run into a person you think might be a mentor candidate who isn’t interested in taking on the role. But as you continue asking around, you'll be surprised by just how receptive many people are.

Not all mentor candidates will be strangers. You may have a former boss, professor, family member, or friend who may be able to help you.

What to Look for In a Mentor

Some of the qualities to look for in a mentor include:

  • Experience: Look for mentors who have flourished in their own careers.
  • Compatibility: You'll want to seek out people with similar values, and only individuals who you feel comfortable with.
  • Caring: While the relationship is a two-way street, as the mentee, you'll be getting a lot of value from it. Make sure to seek out people who are willing to put in the time and effort.

Tips for Finding a Good Career Mentor

Even with a few words of encouragement, the idea of searching for and finding a career mentor may seem scary, so here are a few tips to get you started:

  • If you’re brand new or changing careers, it may be a good idea to research the field and find out about the top people in it. Learn what you can about their background, education, and even common interests.
  • Whether you’re new to an industry, or have been in it a while, create a list of people who seem like they might be a good fit for you and your career goals. Keep your existing network of connections in mind. It’s possible people you already know may make good mentors. Or they may be able to connect you with potential mentors.
  • Start contacting the people on your list but go slowly with each one. Start with a polite and formal email to introduce yourself and see who responds. In your email, you’ll want to share a bit about what you admire about the person, details about where you are in your career, and some perspective on why this person would be a good mentor for you.
  • Be patient your potential mentor candidates will likely be busy, and it could take a day or two for any of them to respond.
  • Try to form a relationship with them and get to know their personalities, even as you try to exhibit yours. Like so many other things, when you find the right mentor, you’ll know it. The first person you connect with may not be the right fit, and that’s OK.

The guidance and advice from a good career mentor may be just what you need to steer you through your next set of career steps. Good luck, and who knows—maybe someday someone will be asking you to be their mentor.

Key Takeaways

CAREER MENTORS PLAY A HELPFUL ROLE. A mentor can share insight and advice, helping you throughout your career.

DON'T BE SHY. Forming this relationship may involve reaching out to strangers in your industry, but most people will be flattered to be asked.

YOU MAY NEED TO ASK SEVERAL PEOPLE. The first person you reach out to may not respond—or may not be the right fit. Finding a mentor requires some patience.

Choosing a mentor is one of the most important career decisions you can make.

Working with a mentor can increase your chances at promotion by a factor of five, but that doesn’t mean you should jump into the first relationship that comes across your path. Take time to evaluate the opportunity, your willingness to commit and your potential mentor. Choosing the right mentor is critical. You’ll have to do the legwork to decide if this mentor is right for you. Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

1. Determine exactly what you need.

What skills do you need to learn right now versus in a year from now?

Career development is never linear, the same mentor who can support you today may not have the skills to help you five years from now. That’s why you need to analyze your current development needs before your future ones.

Your mentor needs to help you succeed in the present before grooming you for the future. Tackle your professional development one step at a time. A 12- to 18-month timeline for a mentor and mentee relationship is often most effective.

2. Weigh the mentor’s strengths and weaknesses.

Especially as they relate to your style.

Don’t bend over backward changing your work style to accommodate a someone else’s lessons. You can spend your energy in better ways. Nobody is perfect – not me, not you and not your potential mentor. Is this person going to complement your style or clash with it?

Look for these qualities to start:

  • Empathy
  • Honesty and practiced communication skills
  • Lateral thinking
  • Lifelong dedication to learning

3. Are your world views and philosophies aligned?

You can’t force this.

Take a good, hard look at your proposed mentor’s outlook on life, your field and company’s values before committing. The odds of finding someone who matches you 100 percent are slim and a moot point if you are going to grow into an -improved and therefore different — version of yourself over time. Focus on life philosophies, such as: learning, determination, thoughtfulness and trust.

4. The mentor must be a good listener.

Mentors are like hiking guides. They haven’t always experienced the same paths that you have taken, and they shouldn’t spoon-feed answers to you even if they have. Instead, they need to help mentees overcome their challenges without taking the reins directly. This comes back full-circle to empathy and communication skills – in the form of listening.

If this person helps you to develop your own answers with insights rather than just their own strong opinions then you may be on to something. On the other hand, a mentor who does most of the talking and turns away your ideas regularly is a poor bet.

Ultimately you want someone who knows when to give you a reality check, who can tell you to go for it when the time is right and who helps you to reflect on the most important lessons – even if it means the occasional setback. Your mentor needs to let you scrape your knees now and again to let you learn from your failures, but also pull you back from the edge of the precipice when you’re about to step off the edge. And this mentor-to-be can’t do any of that without practiced listening skills.

5. Does this person challenge you?

They should. You won’t learn anything new if your mentor doesn’t get you to consider new perspectives. Keeping in mind that your mentor should share broad philosophies with you, think very carefully about this person’s ability to bounce ideas back and forth with you too. You want someone who shares similar threads of experience with you – be it the approaches they took or the challenges they overcame in the past.

Younger people can make the mistake that mentors know better simply because they claim seniority. Those mentors rarely ever succeed, even if they think otherwise. But it’s important that anyone seeking out a mentor understands the difference between someone who deliberately teaches mentees by challenging their stances when it counts instead of dismissing their ideas routinely.

6. Can you return the favor?

Mentors are supposed to get value out of your relationship as well as you. And some of these are obvious – gaining a successor, a new pillar of management in the company or a new business connection. But like the rest of us, mentors have their own immediate needs and priorities.

It pays to give back to your mentors, as they will be inclined to stay engaged in the relationship for longer. Successful mentorships are two-way streets in which the mentor learns new things as well – not by calling on the same experience that a mentor brings, but by bringing insights about new developments not present when the mentor was younger.

Choosing the wrong mentor can set back your career instead of fast-tracking it. Be strategic about what you need to learn, make sure your styles complement each other, and bring something to the table in exchange for teaching you to learn from failure. Choosing the right mentor can be the most important career decision you’ll ever make.

Written By

Debby Carreau

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

Entrepreneur, author, CEO and founder of Inspired HR. Debby was recently honoured for a 4th consecutive year as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women marking Debby's induction into Canada’s Top 100 Hall of Fame as the youngest inductee in history.

How to find a suitable professional mentor

Most people want to progress in their careers – whether it’s to find more fulfilling job roles, money, power or prestige – but they often can’t figure out what to do next to get there.

One option is to find a mentor, someone who can guide you through the next stage of your career development because they’ve already been through it. They’ve learned a lot along the way, and they can help you avoid mistakes and obstacles on your own journey to the top.

There are many benefits to having a mentor by your side, including supportive advice, valuable feedback from someone who knows your industry, as well as connections to potential employers or backers for a business venture.

If this sounds like a good idea, keep reading for 10 tips on how to find the right mentor to get your career moving forward.

1. Go Over Your Career Goals

First, you must decide exactly what your career goals are. A mentor can’t help you take the necessary steps to your dream job if you haven’t figured out what that ideal destination is. Take the time to consider your larger goals, like owning your own law firm or becoming the head of marketing, but you should also map out where you want to be in the next two to five years.

Be realistic about your skills and your desire to see a long-term plan through. Don’t limit yourself to a traditional career path in your company, or only consider what positions make the most money. Think about what your passions are, what makes you excited to go to work in the morning and the situations or conditions that would cause you to lose enthusiasm for a job or the field it’s in.

2. Decide What You Need from a Career Coach

Once you’ve figured out your exact career goals, you’ll have to think about how you’d like a mentor or career coach to help you achieve them. Here are some questions to ask yourself before moving forward:

  • Do you want someone who knows all the ins and outs of the company you work for?
  • Are you looking for an expert in your field, someone you can learn from no matter what specific job role you take on?
  • Would you prefer a paid career coach that is more readily available to answer all your questions, or do you want to possibly form a more personal connection with someone in your line of work whom you admire and respect?
  • Are you looking for a mentor that has had some of the same work, family or cultural experiences as you?

One of the most important things to look for in a mentor is someone you can converse with easily. If you feel uncomfortable in their presence, or the conversation is stilted, or if they seem too rushed to deal with your issues, it’s not going to be a satisfactory experience for either of you.

Jeff Goins, a best-selling author and popular blogger on career issues, suggests not just finding a mentor with a cool job, but someone you actually want to emulate. Look for a person with similar skills, interests and values who started on the same path you are and took it to a higher level.

3. Ask About Your Workplace’s Mentorship Programme

One of the easiest ways to find a mentor for your career is to check into the career development options at your current place of work. In the US alone, 71% of Fortune 500 companies have a mentoring programme, so the odds are good that your business will have something in place. If they don’t, talk to your boss or the human resources department and see if there is any interest in starting a mentorship programme.

Your company may have a few different options for mentoring, including basic career development, leadership and diversity programmes. If the system in place doesn’t seem quite right for you, or if you’re interested in expanding your career well beyond your current employer, consider looking for a mentor elsewhere.

Mentoring is an increasingly popular channel for learning, development and career progression. Yet, finding a mentor isn’t always easy.

As someone who setup a mentoring platform off the back of the challenges I had around finding a mentor, I know how tricky it can be. So, in this article I’m going to tell you a few ways in which you can find a mentor.

First though, let’s take a step back and ensure we’re all on the same page as to what a mentor is and how they can help.

Mentoring, simply put, is the concept of an individual sharing their knowledge, skills and/or experience with another person, to help them to grow. Typically mentoring impacts the professional and career elements of growth, but not always. Mentors can have a profound effect on personal and professional lives and they’re so important for several reasons. Unlike coaching which is typically based on a set of learning tools and objectives, mentoring is far more flexible and is born from personal experience.

A mentor is someone you can learn from, rendering the knowledge and skills they have developed, in a way that works best for you. Mentors typically provide their insights from the things they have achieved and accomplished in their own career – and sometimes even the failures and mistakes they have made.

You may want a mentor to support you in general career progression, or with certain challenges you’re in the midst of, within your career. Either way, mentors are extremely valuable and vital to career success. So, given how important mentoring is, where can you find your mentor?

Networking

Networking is a powerful tool for finding a mentor. Not only does networking have enormous and far-reaching benefits in all aspects of career progression (of which I’m sure you’ll know), but networking can be a great way to meet those in your industry, city or company who will help you to develop your career and become a mentor to you.

You can network in a number of ways, such as through professional networks online, at networking meetups, seminars and events, through exhibition spaces hosting networking ‘breakouts’ and in office environments too. With the rise of co-working spaces, this opens up further opportunities for networking.

Ensure that when you’re meeting new professionals you let them know that you’re looking for a mentor and ask if they might know of someone suitable. As always with networking, make sure it’s mutually beneficial. See who you can introduce them to and how you can help them as well. Networking works best when it’s sincere, helpful and beneficial.

Your Organisation

Most larger organisations now have mentoring schemes and programmes in place for employees to get involved, volunteer to mentor colleagues, and be mentored by colleagues too.

If you aren’t sure whether your organisation has a mentoring scheme, the best people to approach are your HR or learning and development department (the latter function often sit together with HR). Human resources should be able to point you in the right direction and advise you on mentoring schemes and opportunities in your organisation. If your organisation does have a mentoring scheme, make sure you sign up your interest and let your manager and HR department know how keen you are to be mentored.

Finding a mentor within your organisation can offer additional benefits such as understanding the specific organisation’s culture, working methods and industry insights that an external mentor might not be able to offer – that said, there are also benefits to an external mentor.

PushFar

PushFar is a fast-growing online mentoring platform that you can join free and volunteer to mentor other professionals and students, as well as finding a mentor too.

The network offers a fresh approach to mentoring, making it more accessible for everyone, everywhere. It’s industry agnostic and I co-founded it after I was struggling to find a mentor myself. The platform asks a few basic questions about your industry, profile and what you are looking for from a mentor (or looking to help others with), you can join as either a mentor, mentee, or both. Above and beyond mentor matching and personalised mentoring recommendations, the platform is designed to help you manage your mentoring relationships, schedule meetings with your mentor and set your career goals. It’s a great, quick and effective way to find a mentor.

Alumni Networks

A great way to find a mentor is through an alumni network.

If you went to college or university, the chances are that they will have an alumni network which may well offer mentoring schemes and initiatives. Alumni networks are great for mentoring students and finding fellow alumni to mentor you.

Even if you didn’t attend a college or university, your school may well offer a mentoring network. So, have a look at what’s available based on your old educational haunts. What is more, even if your old college or university don’t yet offer a mentoring scheme, you could be a real legend and offer to set one up for them – with access to thousands of alumni, universities and colleges are perfectly positioned to set mentoring schemes up and often just need the support and motivation from an old student to encourage the foundation of them.

Friends and Family

If you’ve tried the above and are still no closer to finding a mentor, then why not try asking your family and friends?

We wouldn’t necessarily recommend appointing a family member or friend as a mentor as mentoring works best when the relationship is kept relatively professional and removed from immediate familiarity. However, your family or friends may well know a suitable individual to mentor you and it is worth asking them.

Let them know what you’re looking for, the sort of industry or position you would like your mentor to be in and see where their networks’ might be able to help you.

So, there we have a few different ways in which you can find a mentor. Remember, mentoring can offer some incredible, flexible and vital resources to developing your career, facing certain challenges and ultimately thriving in your working life.

If you’re being mentored, you should consider also giving back and volunteering to mentor others too. Mentoring works best when experience is passed up and down the chain.

Two women speak to the significance of networking in your industry at large.

Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs—as well as their quality, handmade goods—and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.

After weeks of networking—and scrolling through dozens of LinkedIn profiles—you've finally found someone who would be the perfect mentor. But, before you slide into someone's DMs, it's important to understand that mentorship is a marathon, not a sprint. "Don't send an email asking someone to mentor you right off the bat," explains Alexa Curtis, the founder of Be Fearless Summit who recently launched a Mentor Match program. "Mentorship is most efficient when the relationship has been built and both of you are familiar with one another." Curtis says that a more practical way of approaching the conversation is by scheduling a call with your potential mentor to see if they have any business opportunities for you or are hiring interns. Once you're on the call and have established a baseline relationship, you can weave the question in.

It doesn't matter if you're climbing up the corporate ladder or taking the leap of faith to become your own boss; no two career paths are alike. But, while your professional journey is entirely your own, it's great to have a mentor to help you navigate the ups and downs of your career—and cheer you on along the way. "Having a mentor is like having someone to touch a hot stove for you and learning the lesson without having to get burned yourself," explains Jen Ngozi, founder of NetWerk, a global organization of women in leadership. "My mentor plays a valuable role in building my movement by challenging my thinking and allowing me to learn from all the hot stoves he's touched in life and business."

On the hunt for a mentor, but don't know where to start? Read on to learn how to find a great mentor to enhance your career.

Where to Find a Mentor

Though finding the perfect mentor seems like the professional equivalent to a needle in a haystack, it can actually be a lot easier than you'd think. To get started, Ngozi recommends looking within your personal network. "Take an honest look at those you know who reflect the life and career you aspire to have," she explains. "If this isn't anyone you know personally, you can tap into social networks or local interest groups." Ngozi and Curtis both recommend platforms like LinkedIn, SCORE, or career-specific Facebook groups.

When searching for a mentor, you might assume that you need to find someone who is just like you, but Ngozi stresses that this doesn't always have to be the case. "The perfect mentor may not be whom you expect," she explains. "Be open to different career levels and cultures. As a young, BIPOC woman, some of my best mentors have been older white gentlemen. Bringing an open mind to the mentorship relationship is key!" And, contrary to popular belief, a mentor doesn't have to be in your exact industry, either. "For example, if you're in the beauty industry and looking to launch an e-commerce store, a mentor that has built several successful e-commerce brands could be valuable to you even if they don't have direct experience in the beauty industry," Ngozi explains.

Whether they don't have enough time in their day or can't help you reach your specific goals, it is possible a prospective mentor will kindly decline the opportunity. The rejection might sting, but Ngozi says it's important not to get discouraged. Who knows? Even if someone isn't the right fit, they might be able to introduce you to someone else who is the right fit. "You might go through some rejections before getting to a 'yes,'" she adds. "Remember to be patient with yourself while looking for a mentor!"

Qualities to Look for in a Mentor

The million-dollar question: How do you know if you've found a mentor? Well, it depends on your professional needs. "A potential mentor's personal and professional lives should resemble the future you want," explains Ngozi. "[They] should be someone with experience in the areas [that you're] trying to develop and is willing and able to help you grow. You'll want to make sure that a mentor has the availability to take on a mentee, as the relationship is an investment on both parties."

Speaking of which, it's important that you are clear and straight-forward about your mentoring needs. "The biggest mistake a person can make when finding a mentor is going into the relationship having no idea what you want from your mentor," adds Curtis. "If you're just looking to talk to someone during the week, that's not fair to your mentor because they're working with you to see you grow professionally and personally. Know the advice you want, the ideas you have that you need help on, and be honest with your mentor and yourself."

Though having a mentor seems like a good idea, many professionals don't consider it as essential as, say, a 401(k) or packed resume. Yet, Curtis believes it can be a lot more than a working relationship. "Many women and men suffer from imposter syndrome that leads them to believe they aren't 'enough'—in business, in relationships, in anything," explains Curtis. "But, mentorship helps create new conversations, and paves the way for a new generation of stronger and more independent leaders."

How to find a suitable professional mentor

Whatever the industry, whatever the business, there is no denying the impact of having a good mentor for your business.

They guide you through the business landscape in ways you wouldn’t have figured out by yourself. For any eCommerce business looking to make its way to the top, there is no denying the benefits a mentor can bring to the table.

Their past experiences within the industry can help guide you through the highs and lows of starting, running, and marketing a digital business.

But here’s the thing: while mentors are important, there are businesses who don’t consider reaching out to them a priority. That’s an error of judgement at the end of the business.

While having no mentors may work, having an experienced individual give their say on your business can prove even beneficial as well.

Now that you know about the importance of mentors, it is time we answer another important question:

How to go about selecting mentors?

There is no direct method to selecting a mentor. The steps vary from individual to individual and businesses alike.

But in general, there are certain questions you need to answer to select the right mentor. Let’s outline five of these, shall we?

1. Why do you need a mentor in the first place?

It’s a simple question.

What are the problems you face in your business, and how did those problems prompt you to select a mentor?

To get the right answer to this question, you need to look at your business processes. Think of the problems that you’re facing in the industry, and what improvements you can make for your business.

Only when you have an idea of the problems can you expect yourself to reach out to an expert who will guide you out of it.

How to find a suitable professional mentor

Now, why are creating such business outlines so important?

Well, in some rare cases when you can’t find a free mentoring resource from, say, YouTube, or Google, you have to search out for the paid resource. Because you pay these mentors for their time, you need to ensure that you have a list of all these questions, at the ready.

2. What qualities do you want in a mentor?

Individual tastes vary from person to person. What one person might consider good quality within a mentor; another might abhor.

You need to find a mentor who is competent from both a practical and personality perspective.

How to find a suitable professional mentorYou need the right mix of both.

For example, an individual might like a no-nonsense, right to the point type attitude from a mentor. Another might focus on the more technical aspects of running an eCommerce business, for example.

Again, it’s best to have a list of things you would want from a mentor. Now, you don’t have to show off this list to the mentor. Instead, use it as a measuring stick to see how many qualities the mentor fulfils.

3. What are the essential channels for mentorship?

There is no shortage of digital and physical channels for mentorship.

When you have your list of requirements at the ready, you can go out and explore the various mentorship channels available.

As a best practice, don’t just go for a mentor whom you find very quickly. Instead, you should have a list of mentors that you filter through to find the best one.

How to find a suitable professional mentorFor example, if you’re looking for a digital marketing mentor, you shouldn’t just limit yourself to the likes of Neil Patel or Brian Dean. Yes, they are the pioneers within their respective industries, but the more you diversify your list, the better it will be.

That concludes the digital mentorship scene.

For traditional/physical mentorship support, you’re pretty much covered with organisations like America’s Small Business Development Center, Veteran Business Outreach Center, SCORE, and more.

If you have a very specific niche, you can contact your trade association or union to find out the available experts and mentors within your industry.

4. Have you looked within the community?

You’ve scoured the internet for all the necessary mentorship resources. You’ve even found the right mentor. Now, at this point, should you stop searching and stick to one mentor?

Absolutely not. There is no limit to how many mentors you can have. Think of it in artistic terms: there is inspiration all around you.

Look within your friends, family, and acquaintances. Talk to them, listen to their opinions, ideas, and thoughts related to your business.

How to find a suitable professional mentorEveryone has their own unique experience to share, so it’s best that you become a good listener.

If an individuals’ experience and insights really inspire you, connect with them later on. Building long-lasting relationships within your community can give out significant dividends for your business in the long run. Have a business card with you always to introduce yourself to potential mentors.

Your local community will also have its fair share of small-to-large businesses. Ideally, you should look for mentorship options over there as well.

The more you expand your horizons, the more creative ideas you can gain for your business.

5. Are you ready to be a mentee?

As we discussed above, it pays to be a good listener.

An essential trait of a good mentee is being an inquisitive listener. Now, what does that mean exactly?

Well, it means asking questions and listening carefully to what’s being said. Now, this doesn’t mean that you bombard the mentor with questions.

How to find a suitable professional mentorInstead, you need to maintain balance with what you’re asking and listening to.

Once you’ve gained the expertise and time of the mentor, it’s time to give back. That’s how a healthy business relationship works. Make sure to show gratitude and support to the mentor rather than just take in what they say.

Conclusion

Investing your resources and time in consulting a mentor can give you significant benefits in the long run.

We hope that once you have an answer to the questions we’ve posed in this post, you will have a better idea of how to select and build relationships with the mentor.

Of course, you can also pay this whole mentorship experience forward to other people as a mentor.