If you struggle with finding a mentor, you are not alone. Like any other relationship, there is no magic potion that will lead you to instant gratification. Mentorship is simply a specific type of interconnection. Similar to finding the right partner, there are do’s and don’ts that will help you land your ideal match.
Finding A Mentor is Like Dating
Yeah, I said it. Weirdness aside, hear me out. Most of us have likely Googled how to find love or researched the top 10 dating tips at some point. For those of you who have not experienced dating in the digital age, allow me to explain how this advice applies to the mentor search.
1 | It’s Not You, It’s Me
Would you date yourself? More importantly, would you mentor yourself? If you do not know who you are, what you want and where you are headed, how can anyone help you? Having confidence in your skills and your goals makes you a more attractive candidate.
2 | Let Your Friends Set You Up
Sometimes the best mentors are already in your network—or just a degree or two away. Talk to your peers about your desire to connect with a mentor, as they might already know the perfect person to set you up with. Referrals for the win!
3 | It Happens When You Aren’t Looking…
You may not be actively seeking out a mentor when you slam headfirst into the right person. The first interaction I had with my mentor was at a networking event and involved our inaugural teachable moment: how to tie a bowtie. It never dawned on me that this person would be my biggest supporter, my greatest ally and the person I would seek professional advice from in the years following.
4 | Communication Is Key
Communication makes and breaks relationships. Addressing expectations for how often you will connect, what success looks like and concerns you may have, will create a solid foundation to build upon.
5 | It Should Feel Easy
You should not feel like you are forcing the relationship. Mentorships do not have to start organically, but they should feel natural. If you are not comfortable asking tough questions or receiving honest feedback, it may not be the best match.
6 | Don’t Be a Creep
Please, for the love of everything holy, do not be a stalker. There is nothing wrong with reaching out to someone you do not know to connect, but you would not approach a stranger on the street and ask him/her to date you, right? If you are interested in someone you do not have a personal connection with, take an interest in their work. Follow them on social media and support and interact with content they create. By offering your unique voice and experiences to further the action and conversation, you are showing that you have valuable contributions
7 | Mentorship Is Mutually Beneficial
Give, give and give some more. In any successful relationship, each person does not aim to give 50 percent; they both give 100 percent. Though initially your hunt for a mentor may be self-serving to further your career, the best, most sustainable mentorships deliver value from both sides. You have entirely different insights to offer your mentor; do not forget that you bring an important perspective to the table too.
8 | Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
Diversity of thought is key. I am a firm believer that one should have many different types of mentors in regard to gender, ethnicity, professional journey, etc. The best advice often comes from those whose ideas and thoughts challenge the norm, or at least, your norm.
9 | If You’re Not into It, Move on
Sometimes mentorships just do not work, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you are holding up your end of the relationship and you do not feel that there is enough value in the mentorship, move along. There are plenty of really smart, successful fish in the sea that will prove to be a better fit for your professional needs.
Always remember that you have much more to offer than you realize. Continue to represent yourself in work—and in life—as a person who strives to be the best, and you will undoubtedly attract the best.
Courtney Stanley is a marketing and business development strategist. Recognized as one of the meeting industry’s top young leaders, she sits on Meeting Professionals International’s International Board of Directors. @LadyPhenomena