Starting your first professional job can be rather daunting. You have to gain respect, learn from your mistakes and navigate those daunting annual reviews.
But one thing that can help make the whole process easier is having a mentor that you can rely on. A mentor is usually a senior professional in your field that you can count on for advice and guidance. But how do you find these mystical beings? We’re glad you asked.
Don’t approach strangers
You wouldn’t go up to someone on the street and ask them to be your best friend now, would you? If you want to find a meaningful mentor you can’t just find someone on LinkedIn and send them a cold email asking them to help you with your career.
In her book, Lean In Sheryl Sandberg explains that “If someone has to ask the question, the answer is probably no. When someone finds the right mentor, it is obvious. The question becomes a statement. Chasing or forcing that connection rarely works.”
Use your current network
The best place to find a meaningful mentor is within your current network. It should be someone that you’re comfortable with. Someone that knows your potential and has seen your work first hand.
They need to believe in you, otherwise, why would they waste their time helping you to develop your career?
Don’t be afraid to just ask
Once you have found a potential mentor that you admire and respect bite the bullet and ask them for a coffee or lunch. Have some questions prepared and do your research on their career history online.
You don’t want to ask them to be your mentor right away. Instead, arrange to meet up again soon and simply let the relationship evolve naturally.
Don’t force it
If you leave your initial meeting feeling jaded or slightly disappointed then you may not have picked the right mentor. If the conversation is stilted and awkward they probably aren’t the right person for you.
Don’t waste your time trying to gel with someone just because you think they should be the perfect fit. Use your intuition.
Prepare to be challenged
A mentor is not your mum. They aren’t going to think everything that you do is great. In fact, they might have some harsh words of criticism from time-to-time.
You need to be prepared for this. Don’t chicken out when things get tough. Remember that these hard conversations are going to help your career progress at a much faster rate.
Change your attitude
A lot of people think of mentorship as something you get when in reality is its something that you do. It’s about building meaningful relationships and forming bonds over a long period of time.
As a mentee, you will need to put in just as much time and effort as your mentor. Remember that it is a two-way street.