Intro to Career Mentorship: How to Find a Mentor

Have you ever needed career advice but didn’t know who to ask? A good mentor can come alongside you to help you get to the next level. Mentors come in all different forms and are there to offer advice, answer questions, or ask questions to help you arrive at your own conclusions. Regardless of where you are in your professional career—everyone can benefit from a mentor to help continue their career development. Here are a few tips on how to find the right mentor.

Reasons to Find a Mentor

Mentors are an incredible resource for those of all career levels. They act as an impartial sounding board, a career advocate, and an accountability partner. Because mentors are often in a more senior position, they bring their wisdom to the table when mentoring. They serve as a third party to walk alongside you and help nurture your professional growth in certain areas. Mentors can also provide accountability to help you focus on your goals as well as be a valuable professional connection for future opportunities. The best part about mentorship is you aren’t limited to just one mentor! As you evolve, you may need more than one, each serving a specific purpose or goal. For example, a public speaker would be a great resource if you want to learn how to be more assertive or gain confidence in delivering group presentations. If you want to upgrade your leadership skills, a supervisor or manager would be a perfect fit. There is no limit to how many mentors you can connect with throughout your career as long as you balance commitments and growth goals.

Choosing the Right Mentor

Before you start looking for a mentor, decide if you want them to be in your field, in an adjacent field, or completely outside of your industry. Mentoring under someone in your field means you can spend less time explaining the ins and outs of your role since they would already have a basic understanding of it. While a mentor from a different industry may require some explanation of your position, they would have a completely unbiased opinion on anything you discuss. That means they could look at situations or problems that arise with an outsider’s lens.  

Asking your Mentor to Partner with You

The first step in connecting with a mentor is building a relationship. Research people in your field, the field you’re aspiring to work in, or whose work you admire. When you find someone, start drafting a message to reach out. What inspires you about their work, career trajectory, or special interests? Keep in mind, you wouldn’t be asking them to be your mentor immediately. This message is strictly to connect and see if they’re someone you would like to learn from. Before you send off a LinkedIn message, see if you can find any indications of how your prospective person would like to be contacted. Some people prefer email over LinkedIn, so read their profiles and websites carefully for their preferences. After you’ve corresponded a few times, ask if they have time for an informational interview to discuss how their career journey helped them arrive at their current role. If you’re still feeling good about the partnership, schedule a discovery call to see if you both align on what a mentorship relationship could look like. Establish a mentorship plan before you start in case they agree to mentor you (more on this below). An alternative to reaching out to people on LinkedIn may be to seek out a mentorship matching opportunity like the PDXWIT mentorship program for women in tech. Mentors and mentees apply, and the program pairs them up based on their applications.

Plan for Mentorship Success

Once you’ve found a mentor, plan and schedule your meetings early. Are you meeting monthly, every other month, once a quarter? How long will your meetings be? Are they virtual or in-person? Planning ahead shows your mentor that you respect their time and willingness to meet with you. Once you know when you’ll be meeting, decide what you’ll focus on for the duration of your mentorship. Do you want to learn new skills, polish current ones, or make the leap from one industry to another? Come to your initial meeting with your desired outcomes and the two of you can adjust the plan as needed. Make the most of your meeting time by preparing the agenda and sending it to your mentor 24-48 hours beforehand. This ensures your conversation focuses on what you need most at that moment. During your meetings, be aware of the time. You don’t want them to turn into run-away marathon sessions. If you only meet once a month, you can always chat via email about ad-hoc items. Email is also a great way to celebrate wins between mentor meetings. Text or Slack might be ok, too, but agree on a communication mode and cadence that works for both of you.

After your Mentorship is Over

Keep in touch! Your mentor is likely a subject matter expert (SME), so it would be easy to ask an occasional question. Likewise, you are also an SME in your own industry, so let them know you’re available if they have questions in that area as well. Keep the relationship two-sided and be a resource for them as needed. When you’re ready to give back, offer to mentor someone else and pay it forward!

Ready to expand your local professional network? Here are our favorite PDX networking groups!