How (and Where) to Find Mentors
We've talked about the huge role that mentors can play in your career. But how do you find them? While some mentoring relationships begin quite organically - someone senior in your company, or a respected professor. More often, however, we find ourselves needing advice or guidance, with no one on hand to help. This is why we should be proactive and seek out mentors.
Know Yourself and Your Goals
The first, and most important, step is to take an honest assessment of yourself. You shouldn't expect a mentor (or anyone else) to tell you what to do with your life. Think about where you are in your career, and where you want to go. Consider your personality, your goals, strengths and weaknesses, and how a mentor can help you.
Along the same lines, be clear on what you want to gain from the relationship. Being able to communicate a purpose and desired result will help create a solid foundation for you both to work from. It will also clarify roles and expectations up front.
Reach out to Your Network
We've talked about the importance of networking and maintaining valuable business contacts, and this is one place where your network can come in handy. Once you've identified your goals and career needs, think of who in your network would be a good fit. A helpful reference from a colleague or business friend can go a long way toward getting a mentor lined up. Also, keep your ears open when you're attending networking events or conferences.
Connect to Your Industry
If there's someone in your industry that you look up to, consider asking them for an informational interview. This informal way of gathering information will establish that you're serious about your career and open to help from others. Ensure that you do your research about the individual and their role in your industry, and that you have well-developed questions before your meeting. Follow up with a thank-you note. And keep in touch afterward to keep them apprised of your career path.
Despite these steps, however, it may still be difficult to find just the right person. Fortunately, there are several resources available to help you on your way.
- SCORE - The mentors of the Service Corps of Retired Executives deliver free, confidential, valuable advice for your business needs, whether you are a start-up or an existing business.
- MentorNet - This is a program that offers e-mentoring for women in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math). Similarly, Women in Technologyoffers mentoring to women in technological fields.
- Small Business Association -For entrepreneurs or people running a business, the Small Business Association offers advice from organizations such as SCORE Mentors, Small Business Development Centers and Women’s Business Center.
In addition to the above resources, consider paying for advice from a professional career coach or counselor. An informal mentoring relationship can give you the quick jolt of expertise that you need.
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