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May 8, 2024

4 steps to find your career mentor

By Maxwell Brooks

Recently, I was asked to tell the story of my career- a simple request to recap my employment history and how I arrived in my current role. The metaphor of career as a story stuck with me after the conversation. My career, like any story, is full of memorable characters, meandering plotlines, and different settings. Mostly, I’ve been reflecting on how it has been meaningfully shaped by a series of “editors,” or trusted mentors who helped me clarify my intentions, spark new ideas, hone my goals, and redirect me when I drifted off course.

Just like a skilled editor can help an author improve a story, mentors can help our careers reach their full potential. Whether you’re new to the workplace or a seasoned professional, the guidance, support, and wisdom offered by a mentor can be instrumental in shaping your journey and unlocking opportunities you may not have otherwise encountered. But how do we find and cultivate meaningful mentorship?

1. Finding the right mentor

Finding a mentor is not about simply picking the most senior person in your field or organization. (In fact, having at least one mentor younger than you can provide unique insights if you’re a more senior leader.) Instead, identify someone whose experience, mindset, and values align with your aspirations. Consider people whose career paths you admire, whose expertise complements your own, and who want to help others grow. Who sparks curiosity or inspiration for you? After all, you’re not looking for someone to shape you in their image but to ignite your unique potential. Reach out to express your admiration for their work and ask for guidance. Many people are more than willing to share their knowledge and advice with those who seek it.

2. Cultivating the relationship

Once you’ve found a potential mentor, nurture the relationship with care and intentionality. Mentorship requires mutual effort! Open and honest communication is key to a successful mentorship relationship. Be clear about your goals, challenges, and areas where you seek guidance. Listen actively to your mentor’s advice and be receptive to constructive criticism. Approach each interaction with humility, curiosity, and gratitude for the mentor’s time and expertise.

3. Leveraging mentorship for growth

Mentorship can take many forms -from informal coffee chats to structured coaching sessions. Seize each opportunity to learn from your mentor’s experiences and insights. Ask thoughtful questions, seek feedback on your ideas and projects, and leverage their network to expand your own. Beyond career advice and professional development, mentors can also offer valuable perspectives on work-life balance, navigating office politics, and overcoming obstacles. Draw on their wisdom to navigate challenges and seize new opportunities.

4. Giving back: Paying it forward

As you progress in your career and benefit from mentorship,  pay it forward by becoming a mentor. Share your knowledge, experiences, and insights. Not only does mentorship enrich the lives of mentees, but it also deepens your own understanding and mastery of your field.

Maxwell Brooks is The Learning Well’s education manager.

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