How to Find a Mentor

You’ve probably read plenty of advice telling you to find a mentor – someone who can advise you on career decisions, help you navigate tricky politics, and generally help you succeed professionally. But how are you supposed to find this magical mentor?

While you might have access to a formal mentoring program, or be courageous enough to simply ask someone to mentor you, it’s often more effective to let it happen naturally. In fact, some of the best mentoring relationships develop on their own without ever being officially labeled. Here’s how you can increase your chances of those relationships popping up naturally:

1. Look for people who you already click with. The strongest mentor relationships are ones that aren’t forced, but rather ones that develop naturally from good chemistry.

2. Ask questions about the other person, such as, “How did you do that?” And, “Why did you decide to handle that altercation in the meeting that way?” Or, “What was behind your decision to revamp this project?” Watch the person in action, and then talk with them about why they made particular choices.

3. Ask questions about yourself, such as “What do you see in my performance or approach that I could do better?” Or, “How can I be perceived as more ___?” And, “If I want to get from ‘x’ to ‘y’ in my career, how do I do that?”

4. Talk to them about dilemmas you’re facing in your job, and explain your thought process on how to handle it. Ask for advice. Run your proposed solution by them and see what they say.

5. Be worth mentoring. This means that you take their advice seriously and genuinely want to excel and advance in your career. A smart mentor will quickly lose interest otherwise.

Alison Green

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.

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