Having discussed how a mentor can be beneficial to your personal and professional growth, today we’ll go a little further and explore how you can find the best mentor based on your needs. Many will agree that it’s not always easy to find the right mentor —a mentor who aligns with you on all levels. That is why it is advisable to approach the process with awareness and intentionality. Being intentional and laying out your career goals, life vision(s), the skills you want to build, and pairing all of those with self-awareness will take you a long way.
Mentor/mentee relationships are usually long-term and can be viewed as personal relationships, so we do not always have to look too far for the right mentors. Sometimes, our best and most invaluable mentors can be our closest friends, family, colleagues and peers.
Like every good thing, getting the right mentor will cost you time, work, and effort. To find the right mentor, you must be committed to the process, willing to put in the work and be patient for the best results. Based on my own experience, supported by research, here are six essential steps to finding the right mentor.
Step 1: Identify the reasons for wanting a mentor
Throughout this piece, the importance of approaching mentorship with intentionality has been echoed. In this first and very critical step, you must sit with yourself and ask, “Why do I want or need a mentor?” It is solely dependent on the soundness of your answer to yourself that you must proceed. Do you need insight into your current phase of life or career level? Have you found that your friends and family members hesitate to provide the type of feedback you need to make a change in your personal or professional life? Do you need help setting and achieving goals? Do you need someone to keep you accountable to yourself and your journey? All of these questions will help you to determine your reasons for wanting a mentor.
Step 2: Make a list of potential mentors.
Create a list of people you admire based on your reasons for wanting a mentor. As you develop your list, the one key question you want to ask for all the people who you have in mind is, “Who is a person I admire with all the qualities I would like to embody and reflect?” Because we all can attest to the marvelous goodness of having our options open and because there is more than one person you admire, you must proceed to switch the “person” to “people” and ask, “Who are people with all the qualities I admire?” Having several candidates you can study before committing to one is ideal.
Step 3: Study the potential mentors.
Mentor/mentee relationships can be quite personal, so your mentor is somebody with whom you want to align with beyond just the surface. My unsolicited advice is that you carefully study the people on your list of potential mentors. Some relevant things to look out for when you do this includes, How are you two alike and different? What set of strengths and skills does this person have that you want to emulate? How does this person fit in with your long-term goals? Is this person somebody you want to be like?
Step 4: Reach out
Having conducted your study of the people on your list of potential mentors, it is now up to you to decide who you want to keep. After this “shortlisting” is completed, reach out to the person(s) still on your list and set up an initial meeting- something informal, over coffee maybe and keep it less than an hour. At this initial meeting, ask the questions you have and make relational conversation to engage. I guarantee you would learn a lot about this person by asking the right questions with the right amount of engagement. Do not ask the individual to be your mentor yet! Asking someone to be your mentor upon first interaction is a big jump ahead of the curve.
Step 5: Reevaluate
After you have met and interacted with this person, ask yourself, “Is this a person I want to spend more time with?” At this stage, look back on how your meeting with your potential mentor went --Did you leave the meeting feeling good about yourself? Did he/she show interest in you? Was a connection made? Note that the questions here aren’t written in stone and should depend on what is important to you.
Step 6: Shoot
If you are like me, you are most likely always ricocheting between the belief systems of “What’s meant to be, will be” versus “If you want it, go get it”. First off, it is not a lie that some mentees were identified and picked out by their amazing mentors. However, it is also not a lie that some mentees chose their equally amazing mentors. All our stories are different, so before you sit around waiting for the mentor you want to find and pick you as it happened with another person, seek what you want.
It is crucial to constantly remind yourself that your mentor(s), most often than not, end up becoming your biggest influence(s). Also, be mindful that your mentor(s) may either come with positive or negative implications depending on how intentional you are about the entire process from the very start.
If you already have healthy mentor relationships —we’re happy for you! If you currently find yourself in a hard place because of a toxic and unhealthy mentor relationship, remember that it is okay to check out; we are rooting for you. If you are hoping for mentoring relationships that align with you and your growth —all the best, my friend.
Until next time, I wish you light, grace, and a happy heart!