How to Find a Mentor

Three Parts:Choosing a Kind of MentorFinding a MentorKeeping the Mentorship Healthy

A mentor is usually a voluntary counselor or teacher who guides you in work, school, or other areas of your life. Sometimes mentorship is a formal organized relationship between a professional and a novice, and sometimes it's more informal, like a friendship with a role model. While the exact mentoring relationship will be up to you, this article is designed to help you find potential mentors, and define that relationship for yourself. Read on to get started.

Part 1
Choosing a Kind of Mentor

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    Understand the role of a mentor. A good mentor will help you learn to do things, but not do them for you. A mentor leads by example. For example, an academic mentor may offer efficiency tricks, advice, and examples to show you smart alternatives for success, but not help you copy edit your history essay in the waning moments before it is due. This is the difference between a tutor and a mentor. A good mentor will:
    • Assess your strengths and weaknesses
    • Help you understand the structure and organization of the topic
    • Introduce new perspectives and correct any wrong thinking
    • Boost your ability to make decisions
    • Familiarize you with the tricks of the trade
    • Introduce you to important resources and useful references
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    Consider an academic mentor. This type of mentoring usually consists of face-to-face sessions with someone who excels in the subject matter you're studying, has the time to offer you a mentorship, and an interest in your academic achievement. Consider:
    • Professors, instructors, and other faculty
    • Older or more experienced students
    • Siblings or other family members
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    Consider sports and recreational mentoring. Think about mentors who excel at the sport you're interested in developing. While athletic ability is an important part of a sporting mentor, also consider the human side of the relationship when considering an athletic mentor. A good soccer mentor will be a good sport, an intelligent athlete, and an all-around person as well as being a phenomenal soccer player. Consider:
    • Coaches and assistants
    • Experienced players on your team or other teams
    • Professional athletes or retired athletes
    • Trainers
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    Consider a business mentor. Business and other professional mentors are usually successful workers in the field you hope to crack into, who will be able to offer you some tricks of the trade. This could be anything from stock trading to blues guitar. Think about who does what you want to do better than you do it. Consider:
    • Colleagues and business acquaintances
    • An old boss, though not a current supervisor
    • Workers with a great reputation
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    Consider a personal mentor. Develop a relationship with someone you admire personally, not because of what they do, but who they are and how they do it. Think of people who you'd like to be like, for no particularly reason. A personal mentor might be:
    • A neighbor
    • Your favorite bartender or barista
    • Your personal style icon
    • Someone you go to church with
    • Your record store guy or girl
    • A member of a social club you're a part of
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    Think about different ways to communicate. A mentor might be a neighbor or a classmate you admire, but it might also be someone you've never met. Rainer Maria Rilke's famous book Letters to a Young Poet chronicles the correspondence between the famous poet (Rilke) and a young student writer who sent him some poems and asked for advice. Consider:
    • Successful people you may have read about and felt some connection to
    • People with considerable and approachable Internet presence
    • Anyone who fits any of the criteria for a mentor, but you don't know personally yet

Part 2
Finding a Mentor

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    Decide what specific role you'd like your mentor to provide. Write down any problems or specific requirements you might have regarding the field and subject matter. It would be helpful to answer the following questions:
    • What would you like to learn?
    • What are you looking for from your mentor?
    • How will the mentorship "look"?
    • How often would you like to meet? Where?
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    Make a list of possibilities. Create a list of potential mentors according to your personal criteria and desires for the relationship. Order the list, starting with your top choices.
    • Look for the "total package." If you really admire someone's business acumen but can't stand them as a person, they won't make a good mentor.
    • Aim high. The rich and famous have personal assistants who learn from them and make connections based on that relationship. Why not you? If Donald Trump would be your ideal business mentor, put him at the top of the list. Write his office a letter, try to schedule a meeting, or apply to be on The Apprentice.
    • Check if your company or school has a formal mentoring program that would line up a mentor for you. If so, see if it fulfills your goals and enroll in the program.
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    Think about what you'll say. Going up to a professor after class and asking, "I've been thinking: Will you be my mentor?" might scare them off if you don't explain what you mean. It's a big role and a big commitment to ask of someone, if all you're really looking for is, "Can we meet for coffee and talk about physics sometimes?" Be specific and explain what you're looking for.
    • Use "mentor" as a verb more than a noun. Saying "I could use some mentoring in figuring out how to get my sales up next quarter. You seem to really have it together, Bob. You mind getting some drinks about talking about it every now and then?" is more attractive for your potential mentor than, "I need you as a mentor. I have to improve my sales. Help."
    • Make sure you don't give someone the wrong impression. If the salesperson you really admire is of the opposite sex, this could sound a lot like asking for a date. Keep it at the office or on campus if you're concerned about making it sound that way.
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    Start approaching your potential mentors. Work your way down the list until someone agrees to fulfill the relationship as you've outlined it.
    • If you don't get anyone the first go-around, don't worry. It may have nothing to do with you personally and more to do with the person's schedule or other issues. Start again and consider possible mentors who've got more time on their hands, or who may be more willing to work with you.
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    Make plans to meet. Don't leave the relationship hanging once you've gotten someone to agree. Make concrete plans to get together and hit a bucket of golf balls to improve your swing or go over your calculus homework on a specific day at a specific time.
    • If the first meeting goes well, plan subsequent meetings. You might consider asking at that point, "Mind if we make this a regular thing?"

Part 3
Keeping the Mentorship Healthy

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    Keep a schedule and stick to it. Even if the mentorship exists largely over email or online, don't start bombarding your mentor with questions for advice at the last minute if it doesn't fit into the pre-outlined relationship you'd established.
    • If the relationship reaches a natural conclusion, it's ok to end it. If you feel confident that you've improved enough in whatever skill you were hoping to learn from your mentor that you feel confident to go forth without weekly coffee meetings, say so.
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    Make the relationship mutually beneficial. Think about what you might be able to offer your mentor in return. If you're getting loads of free advice about your short stories from a professor, ask if there's any research or tech help they might be able to use around the office. Setting up the new wireless router would be a great way to earn favor.
    • As you improve in your career, remember who and what got you there. As opportunities arise, don't forget about your mentors that helped you along the way.
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    Show your appreciation. Write to your mentor to keep them updated on your progress and remember to thank them for their specific contributions. This will give the mentor a feeling of being useful, needed, and also skillful at their craft.
    • Be specific. Just saying, "Thanks, you're being so helpful!" isn't as reassuring as, "I totally nailed that last sale thanks to your opening line tips. Thanks!"
    • Gratitude could include a small gift as a "thank you" token. Small things like a book, a bottle of wine, or the occasional meal may be appropriate.
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    Keep a strictly professional relationship between you and your mentor. Emotional involvement with your mentor will usually not be in the best interest of the mentoring process, especially if it's someone you work with.


  • This is not about finding a wikiHow mentor! For wikiHow mentors, see here.

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Categories: Leadership and Mentoring