Mentors are a little like your favorite teacher, except this time the subject is your career, future, and professional do’s and don’ts. They are the best way to have honest conversations and receive constructive feedback from someone who knows exactly what you are going through. While it is nice to give your mom a call and ask for her perspective, an industry professional is likely to have experiences relevant to almost any problem you will face. Here are some tips on how to find a professional mentor that will metaphorically hold your hand through all your industry-specific struggles.
Who Should Your Mentor Be?
Find Someone Adjacent to Your Interests
If you are looking for a new job, don’t ask the recruiter of the company you want to work for to be your mentor. It will feel ingenuine and possibly work against you when you apply for an
open position. Find someone that has your dream job or had a start to their career path that was similar to yours. Look at companies that are competing with your dream company, those professionals will have a great insight into the industry and the threats and weaknesses of your possible future employer.
The Best Mentor is One Who Offers a Different Perspective
Lesson One from 6 Lessons Every Marketer Can Learn From Emily In Paris puts it perfectly, “a different perspective could change everything,” while it is necessary to have things in common with your mentor, it is more important that they can provide you with a new approach to your obstacles. A mentor that has the same experiences as you with the same results may not be able to provide the enlightening advice that you need. Look for a mentor that came from a completely different background, has an undergraduate degree that you would have never considered, or has worked in a position that you have no experience with. These differences will make them equipped to provide input that you could not have come up with on your own.
How to Approach Your Mentor Search
Make LinkedIn Your Best Friend
LinkedIn is a great platform for all things networking. First, type in keywords that relate to
your professional goals and desired industry. You can then filter by people, by group and search through the members, or by companies where you can look through their employees. LinkedIn is also a great place to make the first move. Look through a potential mentor’s profile to find their contact information or simply send them a message through the platform’s message feature. After you have set up that initial meeting, look at their LinkedIn and be prepared to ask them questions about their previous roles.
Define Your Career Goals
By first knowing what you want it to accomplish, it will be much easier to find a mentor that can guide you to those achievements. This NPR article has a great goal structure that will help you create attainable goals aligned with your career. Another great tool that can inform professional goals is an informational interview. This is when you interview an industry professional about their position to understand if their role interests you. By completing informational interviews, you get a deeper look into career paths that you could take, you can clearly outline your professional aspirations, and you have a great reason for an initial meeting with a potential mentor.
Don’t Wait Until You Need Them
Finding a mentor is something that can easily be pushed until later, but it is best to get started as soon as possible. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a situation where you desperately need advice with no one to turn to. Luckily, by reading this blog post you’ve already made a great first step! While finding a mentor may seem like it must be purposeful, don’t forget to look at the relationships you have already built. You might have casually made a great connection with someone in your industry or coworker at a past job that could help you through your professional journey. And if this isn’t the case, start building relationships with the successful people in your life as soon as possible. You never know when you will meet someone who can guide you to the next stage of your career.
Leverage Common Ground
No matter what, your mentor should still be someone that you will get along with! Make sure to find a mentor that you won’t mind talking to for thirty minutes or more without prompts, interruptions, or icebreakers. A great way to build that initial connection with a potential mentor is finding someone from your university. Mentioning your shared Alma Mater will kickstart a conversation about majors, organizations, favorite study spots, and great memories. Finding a mentor from your university may be difficult but your common ground can be anything, a similar hometown, a shared love for poodles, a passion for running marathons, or an interest in bitcoin.