How Do I Find a Great Mentor?

I can’t tell you how many times someone has asked me to be their mentor, and when I asked what they were looking to accomplish–I was met with a blank stare. I guess they were just looking for me to start espousing wisdom to help get their career to the next level.

But mentoring doesn’t work that way.

To find a great mentor, start by being a rock star mentee.

Four Ways to Be a Better Mentee

Just like everything else in your career, the more you put in, the more you get out. Show up with a plan to launch an enriching relationship.

  1. Know What You’re Looking to Accomplish
    Determine specifically what you’re looking to achieve from your work together. Is there something about your mentor’s background or skill set that you want to learn? Perhaps they’re particularly good at navigating the political landscape, or great during times of stress. Or maybe you’re looking for better insights into how you’re being perceived in the organization or support in expanding your network with a few key introductions. As with all relationships, you’ll be more successful if you both are clear on your expectations for your work together. Have an open conversation about expectations upfront to determine if you’re aligned.
  2. Be Truly Open to Feedback
    If you’re going to ask for feedback and advice, be sure you’re listening. You don’t have to agree or act on it, but be sure to be open and say thank you. Nothing will turn off your new mentor more than a defensive argument about why their perception isn’t accurate.
  3. Offer to Help
    The best mentoring relationships are reciprocal– both human beings grow in the process. Ask what you can do to be helpful to them– even if it’s rolling up your sleeves and pitching in on a project they’re doing.
  4. Bring Conversation Starters
    The first few mentoring sessions can be a bit awkward if you don’t know your mentor very well. It can be good to come with a few “starter” questions.
  • What are you most excited about in terms of the future of our organization? Why? How can I best prepare to add the most value?
  • What are the things that excite and energize you about your work here? What are the things that drain or frustrate you? What have you done to reduce this frustration?
  • What are some of your outside interests? Are you able to leverage any of those skills here?
  • What are the skills and behaviors you think are required to be successful in my role? What advice do you have for accelerating my learning curve on those?
  • What skills and behaviors have helped you be successful here?
  • What do you know now that you wish you learned sooner?

The best mentoring relationships are grounded in deep-trust– and that takes time. Be patient and invest the time it takes to truly get to know and support one another.

See also:

Your Mentor May Not Be Helping Your Career

9 Ways to Strengthen Your Personal Brand

Speed Mentoring: Jump Starting Deeper Conversations