Find a Mentor to Change Your Career Path

By Marianick Villegas | Posted on February 4, 2022

Once we get out of school and into the real world, we think the journey of life with a mentor stops there. And it is because of this thinking, we are not our best selves or not landing our dream job. But, life with a mentor goes on even after formal education.  

What is a career mentor?

I keep mentioning the word ‘mentor,’ but what does it mean? 

A mentor is someone in your current or desired industry with more worldly knowledge and experience than you and acts as your guide. A good career mentor will set aside time to share their knowledge and expertise with you to help you set goals, cheer on you, and give feedback and advice. A mentor does all of these voluntarily. 

Why do you need a career mentor?

If you can get a mentor for every facet of your life, do so.

I had the chance to be mentored by a former HR Manager. She taught me how to polish my resume and interview answers. We also had mock interviews that increased my confidence in speaking. While this only lasted for a few Saturdays, I am grateful because I got the chance to level up my job interview skills while gaining a relationship along the way.

If you want to get ahead in your career, you need a career mentor. A mentor is a powerful tool for professional growth. A quick Google search will give you all the reasons you need a mentor, and they are all pointing towards your gain.

How do I find the right career mentor for me?

Finding the RIGHT mentor depends on how well you know yourself. I was fully aware of my skills and lack thereof. So when I met my mentor, she didn’t have difficulty adjusting to my needs.

Here are other things you must do to lay the groundwork:

  1. Have your short and long goals ready.

What do you want to accomplish in the next three months? Does this require you to switch jobs, or can you do it in your current role? The more you pinpoint your goals, the easier it will be to find the right mentor. Make sure your goals are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound. It allows you to break down ideas into individual achievable goals.

  1. 2Ask yourself, “Who do I look up to?”

Whose job would you like to have in the next five, 10 or 15 years? 

Where is this person working? 

Who is your role model in your workplace?

Keep a list of jobs and people who align with these questions.

  1. Learn more about the people on your list.

Do a little digging and get to know them. Talk to any mutual connections about the person’s professional background, personality and work style. Unfortunately, not all of the people on your list can be your mentor. But at least you can learn the steps they took to get where they are today.

  1. Be aware of your existing network.

Think about the people in your network. One of them is likely to be already informally mentoring you. Maybe you can ask them to make it formal. Remember that mentoring is more effective when someone is aware of your work and abilities. 

How about someone not aware of your work? Look for a connection, especially if you have never spoken to the person. Above all, make sure the person has the expertise relevant to your professional goals. 

  1. Separate mentors from sponsors

Mentors advise to help you get a new job, raise or promotion—things which sponsors can get for you. Don’t expect a mentor to be a sponsor, but they can connect you with sponsors. Mentors can also be in your life for the long term, while sponsors are often short term.

Now that you’ve done your research and prep, it is time to make the ask.

  1. Ask for a meeting.

Before Covid-19, the best way to ask was to meet the person face-to-face. But now, all you have to do is ask for a 15 to 30 minutes virtual coffee break. You can reach out by sending a short email.

So what will you write in your email?

  • Share a few things you admire about their work.
  • Introduce yourself and include why you are reaching out and what you would like to learn from them.
  • Wrap it up with your ask.

The first meeting allows you to understand your target mentor better and see if they will be the right fit for you. 

  1. Take time to connect with the other person.

Get to know them better. Your first coffee meeting or virtual call is an opportunity for casual conversation. You are still feeling each other out, so feel free to venture to light topics such as what they do for fun, how their weekend looks, and similar questions. They will appreciate you trying to connect on a personal level while letting you see if you have anything in common.

When will you bring up career questions?

Bring them up towards the middle of the meeting. Then, as you wrap up the call, summarize their advice to show you value their input.

Additional tips:

Send a ‘thank you’ email sometime within the same week. Share a few key details you learned during the conversation and let them know you would like to follow up in a few weeks.

Three to five weeks after sending your thank you message, send a message to let them know what you did based on your prior discussion. Ask if they are willing to meet up again within the next couple of weeks. After three to four sessions, you will get a sense of whether you would like the person to be your mentor.

  1. Keep the relationship.

Asking someone to be your mentor means you ask them to invest time in you. Show their time is being well used by demonstrating a return on their investment (ROI). Send regular updates on your progress, but don’t spam them. A message once a month or two shows how their guidance plays a crucial role in your career and personal development. As the mentoring progresses, once every quarter is okay. The goal is to stay in touch and keep them informed about the progress of your career.

Offer to help them in any way. Even if they don’t need it, they will appreciate that you asked. The same way you express your gratitude after each meeting. A short note or a quick ” Thank you for your time!” shows that you appreciate the time and guidance they are giving you.

Finding a mentor doesn’t have to be complicated. I know most young professionals still don’t have a mentor. But for those who already have, here are some additional tips on being a good mentee:

  1. Be clear with your goals and bring them up at the beginning of the relationship.
  2. Meet consistently and be sure to show up.
  3. Set a plan before each meeting.
  4. Be open to feedback—both constructive and positive.
  5. Take notes.
  6. Decide how long the mentorship relationship will last.
  7. Remember to make and keep boundaries.
  8. Consider establishing a board of mentors.

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