How to Get a Mentor

A report a while back by Catalyst, the non-profit research membership organisation, supported the theory that organisations that nurture and develop their employees will see the benefits.  Becoming a mentor will not only help the younger professional develop, but is also a key stage in developing the leadership skills for the management team. For graduates and young professionals, having a mentor can be a great means of progressing your career, whether in a chosen field, or for more general career advice.  I sought advice quite recently myself from a family friend with over 40 years of corporate experience when trying to decide what career move to make. 

Even though his industry was not one I was looking at, his advice on what step to take next, a few years into my career, was invaluable.   So how do you go about finding the right mentor to help you?

Firstly, have a good think about what you are looking for in a mentor

Do you need more advice on skills you will need to develop your career?  Are you looking for a complete career change? Are you pondering the never-ending Bright debate – big fish in a small pond or small fish in a big pond? 

Your mentor does not need to be with you for the rest of your life and could only play a very small part in your wider career progression – just make sure they can actually help reach the goal you have set yourself.

So… where do you find these wise-beings? 

Unfortunately, this may not be so simple.  Not all budding investment bankers happen to have direct access to CEOs after all... 

You may want to check and see if your HR department has a mentoring scheme already in place.  These are not always guaranteed to produce exactly what you want (the mentor involved may not be 100% committed after all!) but it will give you some good ideas at who to look for and the sorts of advice a mentor could impart. 

There is always LinkedIn to search through – you can search through sector and look for connections you may have, whether it be university or mutual acquaintance. 

And don’t forget about friend and family connections.  Your future mentor may be someone you know very well personally and this is the time to start picking their more experienced brain.

The next thing to consider is how to approach the potential mentor you have in your sights

Depending on your request, the person may be – and almost certainly will be – extremely busy.  You need to identify exactly how much of their time you are asking for.  At the same time, it is important to approach this professionally and with commitment. 

You don’t want to put them off.  If you ask them to go for a coffee, then ensure you are very clear about what you need from them and when.  It is also a nice touch to make sure you pay.

Not sure who to ask? Use our Guide to Networking for some tips on how to get started,