I’ve always been so fortunate to have an entourage of trusting mentors to call upon – whether they be various members of my family, former teachers and supervisors, colleagues or friends.
Even at this stage – decades into my career – I depend on both long-time and newly-found mentors. In addition to supporting schools and non-profit organizations, I have recently added an exciting new stream to my consulting services as career coach and advisor – and in navigating toward this decision, I have reached out to my many mentors. They help bring clarity to my thinking, ensure that I am sticking to my values and strengths and making decisions that are both in my best interest and where I can make the greatest impact on the issues that concern me most. I am so grateful for their honest advice and unwavering support.
It is this recent experience that has underlined to me the importance for all of us to identify and continue to nurture relationships with potential mentors.
Here are some tips to finding a mentor (or two!):
- Speak to individuals you do know – family, friends, neighbours, teachers, supervisors – and let them know that you’re looking for a couple of mentors in your field of interest. People love to help other people – so if they know someone in your field, they will almost always be happy to introduce you to them.
- Know that no one does it alone. Take baby steps – at first, it’s hard to ask for help – and once you start, it’ll get easier; everyone understands, they have reached out to their own mentors on many occasions.
- Read and listen to thought leaders in your field – this will ensure that you continue to deepen your learning (and confirm that it is your passion) and learn about like-minded people and events in your community & beyond.
- Attend conferences, community gatherings and networking events that revolve around your area of interest – it’s amazing what you’ll find (and often free of charge!) once you start looking!
- Get on LinkedIn and start to build your connections; review the connections of your connections. If there is someone you know who knows an intriguing individual in your field – ask for an introduction!
- Know that mentors don’t always have to be in your field. Transdisciplinary mentorship brings new perspectives and novel ideas – and so many skills and situations are transferrable to other contexts. What’s most important is that you find someone you can trust when you’re at your best and when you’re at your worst.
- Know that mentors can be younger than you. Intergenerational mentorship is enriching and rewarding. Several of my mentors are millennials – they bring new perspectives, novel ideas and keep me young-spirited! And the mentorship becomes a two-way, mutual system of support.
- Prepare for conversations with your mentor – be organized, share your goals, ask specific questions and listen carefully to their experiences, insight and advice. You don’t have to follow their advice – but no doubt it will incite other thoughts and ideas for you. Remember as Oprah said in a recent commencement speech – “it’s better to be interested than interesting”.
- Be sure to thank your mentors regularly and follow up with them when they introduce you to someone new or give you specific advice. Let them know about your successes and failures. Your mentors really care and are committed to you – and so they want to hear from you – not every day – but maybe every few months!