No matter what career stage you're in, everyone needs a mentor. Many successful people in business cite finding a mentor as the key factor to their success, but finding the right one can be tricky. The right mentor should be someone you can trust to give you honest feedback, help you refine a skill, or offer you advice to push you outside of your comfort zone. From career advice, to just some daily motivation, a good mentor can help push you in the right direction when you need it most.
Here are 4 steps to finding and keeping the perfect mentor:
1) Know what you want.
One thing that your mentor should not be, is someone so senior to you that their experience isn't relevant for your needs. Instead of searching through top business owners, think about seeking a mentor that helps fill a specific career or skill gap.
What is your end goal? Could you use some help in public speaking? Seek advice on your next career move? Looking for feedback on a new business proposal? Start with some self-reflection on what it is you want to improve. There are unlimited types of mentors out there, understanding what you want will narrow down the search and help you get the most out of your experience.
2) Look to your network.
The easiest place to start is your own network. LinkedIn is a good tool for this; look to people within your current company, those from past organizations, and your school's alumni page to start. Create a list of potential mentors that have the job you want, possess a skill or trait you're trying to achieve, or the insights you need to move forward. Find people that excite you and start reaching out – you never know what can happen until you start talking.
3) Build relationships.
Before you ask someone to be your mentor, build a relationship with them first. Similar to any other form of networking, start small. Start with introducing yourself and strike up a conversation. If you meet in person, always send a follow-up message. Nine times out of ten they'll reply with what you're looking for. Once you believe the relationship is strong enough, ask for a mentorship.
4) Give back value.
Mentorships are like any other relationship in that they're a two-way street. Think about what kind of value you can bring the other person before they even have the opportunity to ask. Perhaps you have a skill they don't have and can offer to work on projects unrelated to your own. If anything, two things you can do to provide value are: be open and grow. Show genuine interest in what your mentor is teaching you and, even if you disagree, be open to their new ideas. The best gift you can give back is showing your mentor you're putting what you've learned from them into practice. If you want to show gratitude, grow.
Having a good mentor is a great way to move forward with your career and create meaningful, lasting relationships. You never know who the next person to impact your life will be; use these tips to help you get started.