Some are under the impression that developing a mentoring relationship is a too difficult and too “formal” a process. Others believe finding a good mentor is simple — as if mentors wear “Mentor” badges… and they are so eager to help they line up to meet you on your first day of work.
The truth lies in between. A mentor relationship develops through a mutually beneficial personal and business relationship. And from there, with a little bit of effort on your part, the bond becomes much more, speeding up your career development.
How does one find a mentor? And what attributes should you exhibit that will draw potential mentors to you?
The key to finding the right mentor comes down to three critical areas:
- Exhibiting your passion and potential;
- Networking, both offline and online, and;
- Your willingness to learn (“coach-ability”).
Exhibit Passion and Potential
In every company, there are natural mentors – those who instinctively help others succeed. Without a doubt, they’re specifically drawn to those who exhibit passion, potential and ultimately, confidence.
Put another way: you can’t be a wallflower and expect a mentor to reach out to you. You have to initiate the conversation – and groom the relationship. Sometimes, you’ll have to approach several different potential mentors before the two of you click. Eventually, you’ll find the best match for your career goals and ambitions.
Networking, Social and Old School
Due to the social nature of mentoring, many potential mentors migrate toward networking. This has never been more true that on social media, which has enabled young professionals to nurture virtual mentor relationships. Twitter, given it’s “get to know you quickly” environment, is a particularly good place to find mentors.
You may feel more comfortable with face-to-face interaction. In that case, focus on finding mentors through local old school networking resources such as on-campus groups, professors, alumni associations, chambers of commerce or industry groups.
Theoretically, you should combine social mentorship relationships with the local, face-to-face variety. It’s perfectly okay, even advised, to have more than one mentor… there’s no such thing as “mentor infidelity.”
Are you Coachable?
A mentor is, almost by definition, a busy person. A mentor isn’t going to invest time in someone they don’t feel is ready to learn. In other words, are you able to set ego, agenda and pride aside and listen? Really listen?
The best mentors don’t tell us what we want to hear – through effective communication they tell us what we need to hear. Sometimes that can be difficult, and how you react may determine how long that mentor relationship lasts.
In mentor relationships, like many others in your professional life, remind yourself of this adage: “You have two ears and one mouth… use them proportionately.”
Mentors Bet on the Jockey
Mentors bet on the jockey, not the horse.
Many of your best mentor relationships will last well beyond any one specific project. The reason is simple: the mentor’s interest is in helping you develop as a person, rather than just helping you finish a class, a project, or a start-up.
Be passionate and open-minded – and mentors will naturally be drawn to your potential. Network, every single day. Most important…listen and learn. By following these simple guidelines, you’ll soon find you’ve built a foundation of mentors ready to help you succeed!
About the Author: Joe Gagliano, a founding member of YouTern and our CMO, brings years of start-up management, strategic planning, marketing and market research experience to the team and his blog posts. Joe, who runs our learning center for interns, also brings a passion for start-ups, entrepreneurship and mentorship to our team. Follow Joe on Twitter!