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Finding the Right Mentor
January 21, 2014
Finding the Right Mentor

Let’s start this off with a fun fact. The great hero of the Trojan War, Odysseus, had a trusted guardian to watch over his son Telemachus while he was away fighting the war. That guardian’s name was Mentor. (Funner fact: Mentor was often Athena in disguise who was the
goddess of wisdom….foreshadowing.) The crucial role Mentor played in guiding and teaching young Telemachus as he grew up is where the term mentoring originates from. It was first popularized in the 18th Century, and has enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence today due in large part to a weak labor market.

There’s a good reason for this. A study conducted by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) found that 75% of executives attribute their success in-part to having a mentor. The same study also found that 71% of Fortune 500 companies have some type of internal mentoring program. Which means it behooves you to find one. However, finding the right person might not be all that easy.

Here are 3 quick tips to help you find the right mentor for YOU:

Ask Yourself What You’re Looking For

A legion of 300 Greeks to storm the ramparts is hopefully not what you’re looking for here. Different time, different ideals. However, outlining specific goals on where you want to go in your career is definitely a good place to start. This will help you to seek someone whose past experiences sync up with your own ambitions, which is key. Therefore, you want to find someone who has gone down a similar path to the one you want to follow, and will share the experiences of their journey with you.

A good rule of thumb to follow is that a mentor should not be someone you report to, which could actually complicate things and even limit the scope of what you can openly discuss. The best type of relationship you can have with a mentor is one that is self-selected and above all, mutually beneficial.

Where To Start Looking

Your current place of employment is the best place to start. Many companies have internal mentoring programs so you should definitely check in with your human resources department. General Mills, Young, Proctor & Gamble, American Express, Cisco, Citi, Deloitte, Intel, Morgan Stanley and Time Warner are examples of just a few big time corporations that have such programs available. You might also look into SCORE.org, a nonprofit association and resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) if you’re an entrepreneur. However, keep in mind that mentoring doesn’t have to be a “business” relationship. Don’t limit yourself to the workplace. Look outside of it and cast a wide net. Any activities you’re involved in as well as neighbors, friends and relatives could all be potential mentors.

Have a Little Fun With It

When you ask someone out on a date, what approach do you think is best? Fun and relaxed or stiff and formal? If you’re thinking the former then you’re on the right track. “Will you be my mentor?” can be stiff and off-putting. Sounds like way too much work. A better tactic is to ask, “can I buy you coffee or lunch?” The primary reason most mentors say they take the time to counsel is the satisfaction they get in paying it forward. Start by simply asking for advice on something. And when doing so, do it with excitement, a smile, and a laugh. Mentoring is an energy-boosting opportunity for both of you, and it can actually turn into a friendship. So, find ways to meet regularly and always try to nurture the relationship.

A good mentor can be a tremendous advantage in creating more career opportunities. But you have to be willing to build and cultivate the relationship in a way that is mutually beneficial and in keeping with your own goals. As the saying goes, the teacher will come when the student is ready. So the real question is: are you ready to commit to your future?