4 Tips for Finding and Fostering a Mentorship

One of the top pieces of advice I received when entering the business world as a young professional was to find a mentor. My initial thought was, “How do I even go about that? What do I look for?”

As a brand-new employee in an unfamiliar corporate environment, I barely knew anyone – but realized it was time to start networking.

Along the way, I discovered four tips that helped me not only find a mentor, but also sustain that relationship throughout my career so far.

  1. Do your research.

Finding a mentor takes time. It doesn’t just instantly happen. When networking, find out as much as you can about the other person and his or her role. Mentors don’t necessarily need to work at your company or even in your field. However, it’s helpful for your mentor to understand your work responsibilities in order to help you achieve your professional and personal goals.

Since I serve as an executive assistant, I looked for a mentor who could help me grow in the areas most important to my day-to-day duties:

  • time management
  • organization
  • event planning
  • task prioritization

Although my mentor has never worked in this role, she understands the importance of these topics to my daily agenda.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Once I completed my research and began networking, it was time to ask someone to be my mentor. This can seem intimidating, but ultimately, it’s just a simple, yes-or-no question. You can ask someone by email, through a phone call or, as I did, in person.

My now-mentor and I were working together on a volunteer project one day when I asked her if she had a mentor. After saying that she had and explained how beneficial it had been to her career, I posed my big question: “Well, I know you don’t have a mentee … but would you like one? I’m looking for a mentor and thought we would be a great match!”

She was flattered, and agreed to a monthly meeting. The moral of the story: Don’t let your nerves keep you from asking someone to mentor you; odds are, that person will appreciate the thought and be eager to help!

  1. Recognize the collaborative effort.

After our first few meetings, I realized the mentorship process is a two-way street. At each lunch meeting, my mentor comes prepared with resources for me, such as articles or books, along with potential topics to discuss. She also ends each session by asking, “Is there anything I can prepare for next time?”

By knowing what we will discuss, I can prepare questions to ask and scenarios to role-play. Your mentor can’t blindly guess what you need guidance on, and you don’t want to waste his or her time, so it’s best to prepare before each session.

  1. Know that your mentor wears multiple hats.

As I’ve gotten to know my mentor, I’ve learned that she supports me in multiple ways. Whenever I’ve had a big idea and needed clarity, she’s acted as a sounding board and an adviser, encouraging me to take action. She serves as a teacher, and instills new knowledge in me every time we meet.

When I’ve encountered projects that seem out of my comfort zone, she acts as a cheerleader and keeps me motivated through words of affirmation or dropping off an occasional Starbucks drink. Lastly, my mentor understands the opportunities and challenges that come with my role, and accordingly serves as a partner who provides perspective.

More than one year later, I can’t imagine life without her guidance. I’ve gained perspective into the bigger picture of creating new habits and goals. I’ve also found more ideas and sharper clarity on how to best perform my job. Pursuing a mentorship will lead you to success in your career and life, and hopefully teach you how to one day return the favor by mentoring someone else.

Ready to find meaning in your work? Apply at Paycomcareers.com.