Especially during the pandemic, you might see friends reaching out to their mentors for career advice. That might lead you to wonder: What is a mentor and how do I get one?
Whatever your goals are, finding a mentor can accelerate your progress. Read on to understand what a mentor is, what one can do for you, and how to find the right one for your needs.
What Is a Mentor?
A mentor is a guide who uses their experience and position to help you accomplish your goals. You can learn from their successes and failures without having to go through the same events they did. Their knowledge will better prepare you for the twists and turns that come with your chosen career.
A mentor can simply be someone you periodically talk to and ask questions from or someone who is there to show you the ropes themselves. Figure out what you hope to get from mentorship, and seek out someone who can help you achieve your goals.
Why Should I Get a Mentor?
Having a mentor is like drinking your morning coffee—sure, you’d wake up eventually, but you’d hit your stride faster with a little caffeine. With a mentor, you’re able to learn so much more and gain so many more opportunities than you would otherwise.
For example, a mentor can introduce you to a colleague who has an internship opportunity for you. In normal circumstances, this internship may be a long shot. A mentor can also answer your questions in real-time, helping you accelerate through your career path.
How Do I Find One?
So are you convinced that a mentor is right for you? Now it’s time to find one. There’s no Tinder-esque mentorship app where you swipe left and right on potential candidates. You’re going to have to take a more active and professional approach to find yourself a mentor.
1. Social Media Networking
Thanks to the internet, your network is larger than ever. In particular, social networking sites like LinkedIn provide an excellent platform to connect with business professionals.
You can request to connect with possible mentors on these sites and instant message them through their profile. Be courteous and open with your messaging—an overzealous or immature message can be off-putting right from the start.
Thank each person for connecting with you. Ask a simple question to create a conversation. This can be about the nature of their job or the company they work for. Over time, you can develop a relationship that grows into a full mentorship.
2. Networking Events
Local networking events can be even better than networking online in some cases. While the internet allows you to connect with people no matter their location, attending a networking event is more personal.
Although the COVID-19 crisis has forced sponsors to call off many of these events, opportunities still exist online. Relationship-building service 7:47 still hosts dinners online, creating connections by asking attendees to express gratitude. Many industry-specific conferences are also being held on Zoom.
After the networking event, keep in touch with those who caught your attention. You need to develop a relationship before asking someone to be your mentor.
3. Personal Branding
Before reaching out to potential mentors, you want to beef up your personal brand. You want to be able to sell yourself to mentors as someone worth their time to coach. Your personal brand will create the first impression you need to win them over.
You can build up your brand through social networking. Your online profiles depict who you are at a basic level. Developing a professional resume and working on your writing can also help portray the type of candidate you are at a glance.
Consistency is key when it comes to branding. Not only do you want your tone and message to line up, but you also want to keep everything up to date. This could include sharing weekly thoughts and questions on LinkedIn as a way to connect and learn from others.
4. Career Fairs
You may find a mentor through your work experiences. Finding a job or an internship can lead you to professionals who are willing to help guide you forward. The most concentrated place to look is at a career fair.
At these fairs, there will be dozens of booths of companies and organizations looking to gain exposure and fill positions. Not only can you send out a ton of resumes and applications here, but you also have a chance to speak one-on-one with recruiters from these businesses.
Before you attend a career fair, prepare some questions for potential employers. You can even ask about their experiences with mentorship within their organization. Let it be known that you’re itching to learn, and they might be able to help connect you with a good mentor.
5. Professional Workshops
Workshops provide a more hands-on experience than your regular career fair. The end goal isn’t necessarily to land a position but to learn a new skill or valuable piece of information. Workshops cover a range of industries, so you should be able to find one that’s right for you.
At workshops, not only will you have a chance to meet with professionals in their respective fields, but you’ll also rub shoulders with some like-minded individuals who are also in attendance. Speaking with them could be equally beneficial.
Mentors need not be wise old men who traveled the world in 80 days. They could be fellow young professionals looking to get ahead and who happens to have different experiences than you. You can work together to achieve your goals, leaning on each other every step of the way.
6. Speaking Seminars
Many of the world’s highest-ranking business professionals attend speaking events and panels or host seminars for people to pick their brains. These events are sure to teach you something new. Look in your area to see if there are any events like this in the works.
Bring a notepad to soak in every piece of information you can. There will often be a Q&A segment, so be prepared with some questions to ask as well. You might be given the chance to ask one, giving you a five-minute mentorship window with one of the best.
There’s a slim chance you can personally meet the guest of honor for yourself. Regardless, you can always talk to other attendees in your quest for a mentor. Many local business leaders may be there, and it will be a wonderful chance to connect with them as well.
7. College Courses
Students have all the luck when it comes to mentors. People love to share their knowledge and experience with students. If you’re enrolled in school, now is your time to capitalize on the best college experience. Play that “student card” and see where it takes you.
You can start in some of your classroom settings. When you’ve pinpointed the career path you want to follow, start connecting more with your professors. They can help guide you to where you want to go, having followed a similar path to yours. You can also connect with classmates who are on the same career path as you.
College professors can also continue mentoring you once you’ve graduated. There is no expiration date to mentorship, but you don’t want to wait until after college to start looking for a career. Get started as soon as possible.
8. Clubs and Societies
Organized groups give like-minded people a chance to share interests and grow together. This is another opportunity for you to connect with possible mentors in a setting many don’t consider. Most schools and communities have groups that you might be interested in joining.
Each club and organization has a leader. This is the person you can begin to learn from. They are practically volunteering to be your mentor in exchange for your dedication and contribution to the group.
Don’t forget to learn from your peers along the way. Everyone can be a mentor in some way or another. Take advantage of every learning opportunity you can find. You may even find yourself in a position to mentor another someday.
Mentors come in all shapes and sizes. You might be surprised who ends up being the one that helps you the most. Line up your goals and start planning ways to find a mentor, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals.
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Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com