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7 Tips for Finding a Mentor to Help You Succeed at Work

You’ll find business success faster and more interesting if you learn how to find a mentor at work. Scaling upwards is easier when you have a hand up – and when you help your mentor succeed at work, too. These tips for finding and starting a mentoring relationship will help you achieve your life and career goals.

In Mentors: Guiding the Way on the Success magazine website, Ellen Ensher – associate professor of management at the business college at Loyola Marymount University – describes how to find a mentor:

“You have to know yourself,” she says. “Know what you want and what you would offer a mentor. To identify potentials, look around and see who inspires you and who is visible. Tell everyone you can that you’re looking to connect with the identified sources. Even if you don’t know the person, today’s transparent Internet environment (providing bios, for example) and social networking tools, such as LinkedIn for professionals, ease the burden of finding someone who knows the potential mentor. Leverage any contacts in common to gain an introduction, making it a warm call, Ensher says.

So, finding a mentor to help you succeed in business isn’t just about identifying who can help you, it’s about figuring out how you can help him or her! It’s not all take…you gotta give something to get a good business mentor.

Here’s author Julia Cameron’s advice on finding a mentor to help your writing career:

“You are on the look out for experience, strength, and hope. You want to hear from the horse’s mouth exactly how disappointments have been survived,” says Cameron. “It helps to know that the greats have had hard times too and that your own hard times merely make you part of the club.”

When you’re looking for a mentor, don’t focus solely on people who have always been successful! Find someone who has struggled and succeed, who has tried and failed. That’s the crux of a great mentoring relationship: succeeding despite adversity.

7 Tips for Finding a Mentor at Work

Mentors are key to succeeding at work; in fact, research shows that men and women who are mentored move farther ahead in life than those who aren’t. Before you start looking for a mentor, figure out what you want a mentor for. Do you want to achieve your career goals, or work on your self-identity and emotional health? Do you want to make more money, or start a family?

The first thing to remember when you’re looking for a mentor at work is to be specific and clear about your goals.

And then…

1. Spread the word that you want to find a mentor

Tell colleagues, friends, and family that you’re hoping to find a mentoring or coaching relationship. Be specific about your goals, whether it’s earning a higher salary or getting your PhD. The more people you tell, the higher your chances are of succeeding.

Remember: The smallest step in the right direction could be the biggest decision of your life.

2. Look in your circle family and friends for possible mentors

You may have a natural business mentor in your uncle, sister, mom or godfather – and you may not even know it! A mentor is someone who helps you plan your personal or professional goals, guides you toward smart decisions objectively, and helps you strategize for the future. If you have a healthy, strong-willed family member who is successful in business, a natural mentor may be closer than you think. A mentor doesn’t have to be a PhD or CEO to provide guidance.

If you’re looking for a mentor because you need help finding the right type of work, read Best Jobs for Introverts and People Who Like to Work Alone.

3. Be open to mentors of the opposite sex

An important tip for finding a mentor is not to be focused on finding a same-sex mentor. Dr Faith-Anne Dohm of Fairfield University recently surveyed women in clinical psychology regarding their research and doctorate studies. She found that those who had research mentors during graduate school were twice as likely to continue doing research after getting their degree than those who did not have mentors.

Dr Dohm also found that the gender of the mentor didn’t matter. So, when you’re trying to find a mentor, be open to all types of people.

4. Consider a long distance mentoring relationship

Now that we’re all hooked up on tech, a long distance mentoring relationship for business success isn’t as inconceivable as it was a few years ago. Now, you actually increase your chances of finding fantastic mentor if you get out of the work box.

How to Find a Business Mentor to Help You Succeed at WorkEmailing every few weeks could be just as helpful as meeting in person. Your mentor can live overseas or a different state or province, and still be effective in helping you set professional goals that are realistic and achievable. A coaching relationship can thrive over a long distance.

5. Talk to people you don’t know well, but admire (those are potential work mentors)

If you meet a possible mentor at a conference or business lunch, ask for her card. If you can’t quite summon the nerve to say you’re looking for a mentor, consider emailing the suggestion later. Most people are flattered at this type of request, and realize the value of helping others succeed. Many mentors have achieved their career goals through a mentoring relationship.

6. Consider an “impersonal” mentoring relationship

Another important tip for finding a mentor is to be open to e-mentoring or online mentors. You don’t have to know someone to be inspired by them! For instance, Oprah Winfrey is an unofficial or informal mentor to millions of women – but she certainly can’t meet with them or discuss their professional goals in person. Simply following her career or reading her magazine can help you achieve your goals.

7. Approach a business mentor with specific work goals

Your workplace or school is a natural place to find a mentor because it’s part of your daily life. When you approach a potential mentor, be clear about your goals. Do you want to meet every month and discuss your professional goals, such as how to earn a higher salary? The more clarity you have about your goals for the mentoring relationship, the more successful it (and you) will be.

An example of a career goal that a mentor can help you with is overcoming a challenge you’ve had in school and work. Read How to Deal With Adult Dyslexia at Work to learn about one type of reading and writing challenge.

Have you had a mentor — or are you a mentor at work? I’m a volunteer mentor to a 16 year old girl, through the Big Sisters nonprofit organization. I love it! I learn just as much from her as she’s learning from me, because she’s willing to try new things and curious.

Those two qualities (being willing to try new things and curiosity) are the two most important qualities of anyone who wants to succeed at work or in life, whether or not they have a mentor!

To learn more about mentoring for business success, read Power Mentoring: How Successful Mentors and Proteges Get the Most Out of Their Relationships by Ellen Ensher and Susan Murphy. You’ll learn the secrets of great mentoring relationships and shows how anyone (including those who are well established in their careers, or those who are just starting out) can become a successful mentor or protégé.


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3 thoughts on “7 Tips for Finding a Mentor to Help You Succeed at Work”

  1. I wish I had a mentor who specializes in business blogging! Though, I suppose that’s what podcasts, blog posts, and ebooks do…they are a form of mentoring in business. But I have lots of questions that I can’t find online or in books, so finding a work mentor to help me succeed as a blogger would be ideal.

  2. Mentoring relationships can be among the most rewarding career-related interactions you’ll have — if you take full advantage of them. Whether you’re interested in mentoring someone or looking for a mentor to help steer your career in the right direction, these guidelines can help you get and stay connected with the right person.

  3. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    In a time of transition for rural African-American young adults, natural mentors in the community help them stay focused on their goals and avoid potential difficulties associated with emerging adulthood, according to findings from an ongoing University of Georgia study.

    But it’s not just African Americans who benefit from mentoring relationships! ANYONE can go further and enjoy life more if they have a mentor.