When we were kids, we look to our parents and to other adults for guidance and help
in the obstacles we face in our little worlds. No matter how much we have since
grown and changed, one aspect of us remains the same – we still seek help and
guidance, and look to those who serve as good examples; as professionals, we seek
We rely on others to teach us what we need to know to get through life because
following the advice of a good mentor can make a floundering career flourish, or even
springboard your career.
Mentors can serve a variety of purposes, they may offer us advice and guidance in
getting ahead in the world, and also give us encouragement and even push us when
we need a gentle shove. They also may simply lend us their ears when we need to
talk with someone.
The best place to look for a mentor, is right in front of you. Look around you
at work. Is there an individual who you admire and respect? Someone who has always impressed you with their insight and preceptiveness? Maybe your boss or your boss’s
boss. Maybe it’s a Vice President in a different division. It could even be the older
individual who isn’t currently a top executive of your firm, but who you know has lots
of experience. The key is to look for someone who shows brilliance in an area in which you would like to develop.
Approach that individual and ask if they would consider being your mentor. Depending
on the individual, and your current relationship, your proposal will vary in the amount
of detail and how it is delivered. At the very least, let them know why you
have selected them and what you hope to learn from the assocation. If appropriate
for the specific individual, you can also discuss amounts of time to be commited on a
When it comes to building a mentoring relationship with someone you already
know, the best first step is to request a meeting or coffee date to ask for advice on a particular issue. Most people – even busy people – will be happy to share their wisdom if you make it easy for them and ask nicely. Don’t jump right into requesting a
commitment to a long-term mentor relationship. Make a great impression at your first
meeting and establish a rapport. Often, the mentor/mentee relationship develops quite naturally from there. It’s usually not necessary to have a formal “Will you be my
It can be a bit trickier to approach a prominent person that you don’t know
personally. You can start by trying to arrange for an introduction through a mutual
acquaintance. You can also seek out events at which you may run into your future
mentor. Once you’ve made contact, you can move forward to the meeting/coffee
For those who are bold, the mentor “cold call” approach does work sometimes.
Possible ways in is to introduce yourself in a gracious email that oulines your
admiration for this person, and indicating your interest in learning from him. Request
for a first meeting and from there, establish a relationship.
Most people who take the time to mentor do it because it’s rewarding for them to help and they like the idea of paying forward the wisdom they’ve received from their own
The strongest mentorship relationships are reciprocal. Let your mentor know that
you’re available to help and look for ways to give back. That might mean making an
introduction, offering objective opinions or ideas, or providing an excellent restaurant
recommendation. If as a young professional don’t have a lot of connections or
wisdom to share with youe mentor, you can offer your unique perspective from the
entry level of the organization and through the skill sets you already have.
Understand that your mentor’s time is valuable. Set goals for each session and
prepare focused, smart questions. That doesn’t mean you can’t go off on interesting
tangents, but you should plan for each meeting. You want to make every minute with
your mentor count. Your mentor will appreciate the fact that you’ve done your
homework and enjoy the more interesting conversations that will ensue because of
Report back to your mentor regularly on your progress and any breakthroughs or
successes you have garnered after using the advice they have given you. Show them their time with you have been fruitful and you are increasingly getting prepared to
similarly pay it forward to be someone else’s mentor.