7 Steps to Finding a Great Mentor

Trish Freshwater
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Key Takeaways
​Mentors are a great way to help in your new career. Finding the right one can be a challenge, but being open-minded can help your experience.

 As a new graduate starting a new career, it might be helpful to find a mentor to help you navigate your new role. Mentors can be a great resource of industry knowledge, a contact with numerous connections in your field and an incredible role model to show you what success looks like in your future career.

But, where do you start? How do you find a mentor? Here are seven steps to get you started.

1.  Define Your Purpose.  How can a mentor help you? Are you seeking someone to help in your orientation to the company or would you like to talk about industry trends and how they apply to your role? Or, do you need guidance for a specific project? Setting clear expectations for your mentoring relationship is the first step towards building a meaningful mentorship.

2.   Find out if your company has a formal mentoring program.  As a new employee, you may be assigned a mentor in your department to help you acclimate to the company. But, if you’re not – check with your human resources department to see if any formal programs exist within your company. At Sodexo, our Spirit of Mentoring is part of our corporate culture and we offer several varied opportunities. Many large companies offer both formal and informal mentoring opportunities.

3.  Look outside your company.  Another great place to look for a mentor is within any professional development organizations to which you belong or organizations where you have served as a volunteer. Mentors don’t necessarily need to work for your company – look to family members or friends, neighbors, spiritual leaders, community leaders, and the networks of your friends and colleagues. And, if you’ve already developed a strong relationship with a professor, you may ask if he/she is willing to continue that relationship in a mentoring capacity after graduation.

4.  Start S.L.O.W.L.Y.  Before you approach a potential mentor, consider seeking his/her input on a smaller project or advice on how to handle a specific situation. Pay attention to your interactions. Did it go well? Did you leave the conversation energized and ready to tackle the task at hand? If it did, then take the next step to ask if he/she would be interested in working with you in the future, to serve as your guide as you build your career.

5.  Mentoring comes in many forms.  Mentoring doesn’t have to be a formal meeting scheduled every Monday at 9 a.m. It could be a morning cup of coffee, a monthly lunch, a quarterly phone call. Look to your purpose for the mentoring relationship and align your end goals with the frequency and types of meetings you would like to have. And, be mindful of your mentor’s availability.

6.   Prospective mentors can say no.  If you approach a professional who turns you down for a mentoring relationship, don’t take it personal. You likely chose that person because he/she is a leader in the industry. But, being a leader also means a very busy schedule. Rather than feel let down, ask if he/she can recommend another colleague who may have more availability.

7.   Show gratitude.  Be sure to provide feedback to your mentor – tell him/her when things work out positively. Thank him/her for the time taken to talk with you. Let your mentor know the impact he/she is having on your career.

Some of the most successful people have sought a mentor at a various times in their career. In fact, many executives continue to seek mentors long into their well-established careers. Some even have more than one mentor at a time!  Once established, though, these relationships will encourage you to stretch and reach for your potential, to truly build your legacy and your career.

Do you have a question about marketing or business and want advice from experts in the field? Get answers from some of the best CEOs, Professors, or Managers by submitting your questions to AskExpert@ama.org!

Author Bio:

Trish Freshwater
This article is from the Blog of AMA Career Contributor, Dan Schawbel. Dan Schawbel is a Personal Branding Expert and Bestselling Author (Me 2.0). View Dan's blog here: http://www.personalbrandingblog.com/ Trish is a senior communications manager for Sodexo, a world leader in quality of daily life solutions that contribute to the progress of individuals and the performance of organizations.
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