A mentor is a great resource if used correctly. I see several young students trying to figure out their lives and how to move from one step to the next. One piece of advice I offer is to find a mentor. If you see any successful person and ask them if they have a mentor, my guess is that a majority if not all of those successful individuals have a mentor. So, I want to talk to young adults about how to find and how to use a mentor. If you can start this process at an early age, imagine the wealth of knowledge and understanding that will assist with effectively moving toward success.If you can start this process at an early age, imagine the wealth of knowledge and understanding that will assist with effectively moving toward success. Before I get into how to find and use a mentor, I want to offer a definition of a mentor. A mentor is a person who has reached a goal that you want to achieve. It is someone who can offer perspectives on how to get from point A (where you are now) to point B (achieving your goals). A mentor is also a person to help you better understand some things in your life, to talk through situations or to help you set a plan for meeting some goals.
How to Find a Mentor?
1. List Your Goals. When you list your goals, you will have a better idea of what you want to achieve in the future and can better identity a person or people to assist with those goals. For example, I knew I wanted to get a PhD someday so I found people who already had doctoral degrees and asked questions that would help me move toward that goal. Some questions were: What can I start doing now to prepare for a PhD program? and What are suggestions you can offer for success in a PhD program? If you have no idea of some goals you want to achieve, talk through your goals with a trusted friend or family member. You can also take a career test or personality test to help you identify your top skills and traits.
2. Utilize Family and Friends. Using family and friends just means taking note of those around you, as a mentor might be right under your nose. Specifically, as you note who is around you, pay attention to those who are already invested in your success. For example, a teacher or an advisor at an after-school program may already be providing advice that has been helpful to you. As you begin to recognize these individuals, you can start asking questions or asking for advice in areas that will help you develop personally or professionally.
3. Find a Success Story. This calls for reviewing the story of a person you consider successful. In reviewing their story, be sure the person is transparent about their struggles on the way to success so that you are not following a fairy tale. Also, know that you do not have to follow this person's story step by step, but rather use the story as tips to help you move toward your goals.
How do I Use a Mentor?
1. Have Multiple Mentors. You are not confined to only having one mentor. This is because no one person knows everything about all industries and no one person will be able to answer all your inquiries. So, you might have a mentor to assist with getting into your career, you might have a mentor to assist with interviewing for a job, and a mentor that advises you on networking strategies. Do not limit yourself to one mentor as there are various aspects of your life in which you can grow. Think of multiple mentors as having a team to assist with your success.
2. Ask Questions. Get a mentors input on anything concerning their area of expertise or industry. Even if you think you know the answer, it is good to get the perspective of someone in the industry. Asking questions helps you demystify the steps between point A and point B, and allows you to hear an experienced perspective. By asking questions you might find your mentor(s) help make processes easier to navigate.
3. Meet regularly/Stay in Touch. If you are only meeting with your mentor once a year, you are not effectively using your mentor. Be sure to call and check on your mentor once in a while, schedule coffee or lunch dates, or ask questions over email. Do whatever you need to do to stay connected. Staying in touch sends the message that you care about your mentor, and that you also have a relationship beyond the advice they offer you.
4. Let the Relationship Develop Organically. If a mentor/mentee relationship does not work out, that is fine. You have to surround yourself with people that serve you in the ways that you need to be served. Do not confuse the previous statement with only being around people who always agree with you, etc. A good mentor will challenge you and your way of thinking. However, do not feel forced to make yourself bond with someone just because they may be in the same field as you. If you all mesh well, great. If not, find someone who speaks to your soul and needs. Letting a relationship develop organically also means that you are connected to someone that genuinely cares about you and your success. As a mentee, you should also bring something to the mentoring relationship. It should not be the mentor just giving, giving, giving. For example, do you assist your mentor with projects? or offer assistance in any other way that could be of benefit to your mentor?
5. Thank your Mentor. Finally, thank your mentor. The advice given and time spent with you to help you succeed is likely given at no charge. Be sure to thank them for the time and energy invested into your success. A oral thank you, a gift card, a note, or their favorite snack could be ways to say thank you to your mentor.