74% of hiring managers say job seekers should have a mentor, counselor or job coach to talk to about whether their skills and experience match those required for the jobs they are interested in yet, only 40% of job seekers report having a similar professional resource.
In fact, the proportion of job seekers who would rely on their own experience to decide what information to include on applications, resumes and cover letters rather than seek advice from others including career counselors or instructors has grown in recent years.
“Job seekers are doing themselves a huge disservice by ignoring the wealth of guidance and insight a mentor could provide,” said Madeleine Slutsky, chairman of the Career Advisory Board and VP of Career Services at DeVry University. “Cultivating relationships with individuals who have experience with the current employment landscape can be a tremendous help in the job search process.”
Some of the most successful people in the world have had mentors. Bill Gates had Dr. Ed Roberts. Steve Jobs have Robert Friedland. Tiger woods had his father. Elizabeth Taylor had Aubrey Hepburn.
A mentor is someone that can provide guidance and friendship for your life. They might have experience in the exact life path you want to pursue, but that quality is not a requirement. Often, the best mentors are simply good listeners, educators and friends.
In respect to your personal brand, we recommend finding a mentor. In this guide we’ll take you through the reasons a mentor is needed for your professional and personal growth and the process you can use to find the perfect mentor for you and your situation. Finally, we’ll cover how you can approach potential mentors, earn their interest and trust and get them to help you with your pursuits.
Why Mentors Are Needed For Professional Success
Rachel Louise Ensign (@RachelEnsignWSJ) of the Wall Street Journal said, “A mentor can help a young worker answer tough questions about his or her career path and get perspective on the industry. The relationship may even help you eventually land a new job.”
Throughout your life you’re going to face a number of decisions. Some are relatively easy, but many pose difficult choices. There are times when the facts might tell you to do one thing while your emotions tell you another. It’s a constant challenge to figure out what you should do especially when there is a lot riding on the choice.
For example, throughout this guide we’ve gone through the stages of setting you up for a strong brand in the industry of your choosing. As you go through the steps in the guide you’ll come across choices regarding your professional life. Should you take that job? Should you wait for something else? Should you leave your job and start your own business? Should you start the business on the side?
Throughout your life you’ll constantly have questions. Here are some of the reasons why a mentor will be one of your biggest assets for professional and even for personal success.
Life can be a lonely place especially when it comes to your professional life. If you have a great spouse or partner then you have someone that will listen, but a mentor can be a great complement to your professional career.
Good mentors are great listeners. They’ve often been great listeners for their entire lives. They’ve understood that listening is more important than talking. They’ve heard many people tell different stories and share different experiences.
During your life you’ll simply need someone to listen to your struggles, your triumphs and everything in between. A mentor can be the person you go to when you need someone to simply listen.
Mentors Share Stories
There is a difference between someone that will tell you what you should do and someone that will share stories with you from their life.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone where they’ve simply told interesting stories and you’ve walked away feeling like you’ve learned so much? Their story doesn’t even have to relate exactly to you and your life, but good storytellers are able to make you feel like you can pull nuggets of wisdom and take lessons and apply them to your life.
Mentors Keep You Focused
One of the challenges in life, especially for people that are drive, is keeping focused on specific goals. If you’re a dreamer or if you always have ideas floating around in your head you’re going to struggle to stay focused on the important things.
A mentor can help you keep the focus. They can guide you in developing your goals for your professional career. They’ll help you hone the plan for executing your professional path to achieve those goals. Throughout your life it will be normal to have new ideas on how you should change what you’re doing. As you know, the most successful people are not the ones that make changes all the time. Successful people stick to their plans and steadily make progress.
A mentor can keep you focused on your goals. They’ll help you bring your focus back to your plan while maybe making subtle changes, but without lurching around from one strategy to another. It’s hard for people to do this alone. Some can do it, but many need an outside perspective to remind them to bring things back into focus.
Mentors Push You To Do A Little More & A Little More
Some people are driven to succeed like nothing else. It doesn’t matter what is going on in their life, they always seem to keep pushing to succeed. But even the most driven people need reminders to keep pushing especially after experiencing some success.
It’s good to enjoy success and it’s okay to reflect on failure, but you can get caught up in those emotions for long. Successful people know they have to keep pushing to get one step further in their careers.
Mentors help push successful people to the next step. When the person achieves something the mentor will be there, giving them another challenge. When the person struggles with something the mentor will be there, reminding them that the next achievement is not far off.
Mentors Provide Perspective, But Not An Answer
You don’t want people that will give you answers and tell you what to do. To become successful you’ll have to become adept at making decisions on your own.
However, mentors provide perspective when it comes to decisions. They can share their experiences. They give understanding of the situation and from that perspective you can figure out the best course to take for your situation.
Mentors are experts in many things, but ultimately they are educators. They give perspective and guidance and help the people they work with to get to the next step and to keep pushing to reach goals through success and failure.
Top Sources to Find Mentors
By now you know that a mentor is recommended and really a necessity to having success in your professional career. In this section of the section we’re going to take you through the process of finding a mentor that can work with you through your professional life as you build your brand and achieve the goals you set for yourself.
Family And Friends
Along with his dad, Tiger asked Arnold Palmer for guidance early in his career.
Tiger Woods learned about life and golf from his father. His father wasn’t a professional golfer, but he served as his son’s mentor well into Tiger’s adult life. Tiger looked to his father for guidance as he reached each of the milestones in his career all the way from his early years to the later years when he was winning major golf tournaments.
A mentor can come from within your own family or from a close group of friends. Parents can serve as great mentors. They generally have your best interests in mind, but they also usually aren’t your friends. They’ll challenge you. They aren’t afraid to share their honest feelings and most importantly they’ll often listen to you when you need someone to talk to.
If your mentor is going to come from within your family or close group of friends you probably already know whom that person is. It will be someone you can trust to listen, to share their experiences with you and someone that will challenge you and push you to be your best.
Colleagues, Bosses, and Extended Network
If you have a job you might have a boss that could serve as a great mentor. Bosses are people in our lives that have generally had more experience than ourselves. They are in the same industry so they can provide really detailed and relevant stories and experiences.
You could also contact a boss that you’ve had in the past that you respected and looked up to. It doesn’t need to be your current boss and it might work better if you’re not as directly involved with the person anymore in your job.
Colleagues can also make great mentors. These would be people that you work with, have worked with or people you know in your industry. It might be someone that has followed the same career path that you would like to pursue.
Also, look into your extended network. Ask friends, family and colleagues if they know anyone that they would recommend as a potential mentor. Getting a recommendation can be your key to finding someone that has experience being a mentor and that would be interested in helping someone out again.
Local Professional Organizations
Your local chamber of commerce or business organization can be a place to find a potential mentor. These organizations are full of other professionals that want to be involved in the community. They can help you with what you want to do in your professional life and in the community.
It can be an advantage to find someone that lives in the same area and someone that has been involved in the community and the local professional world. People in local organizations also have connections and those connections could turn into opportunities for you if you find a great mentor and earn their trust and show them our skill.
Industry Organizations and Trade Associations
Industry organizations and trade associations often have mentor programs and can listen to what you need in a mentor and provide a suggestion for someone that would make a good mentor.
We’ve already discussed the opportunities that industry organizations present. As a member, you can build your credibility and now you also have the opportunity to meet a mentor that could help you throughout your career.
Social Media Connections
Finally, your social media connections could be mentors as well. Perhaps the best social network to find a mentor is LinkedIn. You could go through your connections or look through the groups you’re involved in to find someone that has shown a willingness to engage and someone that would be a good fit for your professional efforts.
The world is a much smaller place now so look through your social networks to see if there is someone that could provide mentorship. With technology like video chat, email and more, you can now have successful mentorships remotely even with someone across the world.
How To Approach Mentors and Earn Their Respect
Now that you know why a mentor is important and the potential sources to find a mentor we can get into approaching a mentor.
Identifying a potential mentor or mentors is a big step and once you find someone that you want to reach out to it’s important to reach out in the correct way. You want the person to be interested in working with you to develop your career. It can be a difficult spot because you’re asking someone to help you and to use their time for something that might not give them much in return.
So you have to frame it in a way that is interesting to them and even fulfilling to them. Here are the steps you can take to do just that when reaching out and approaching your target mentor.
Step 1 – Do Your Research
Before approach your potential mentor you have to put in your research. You have to know what the person has done in their life, what they are doing now and even a little about their family and other personal details. You might find that the person likes a particular sport or that they have a particular hobby. These can all be items and points of discussion when you start your efforts to reach out.
Above all else, you need to show interest in the person. If you put forth the effort to get to know them even before reaching out you’re showing them that you are willing to work for what you want in life. That effort can lead to a mentor seeing potential or seeing right through unfound enthusiasm.
Step 2 – Explain The Reason You’re Getting In Touch
After doing your research you’ll be just about ready to reach out and get in touch. The most important element of your first correspondence is having a reason for getting in contact. People don’t like to be bothered, but research shows that if you provide a reason for doing something that you’re more likely to get a favorable response.
There are a number of acceptable reasons you can use when reaching out to a potential mentor. Getting a referral from someone you know is a good reason. You can reach out to the mentor and let them know that a mutual friend or acquaintance referred you to them.
Even something as simple as saying that you saw the person at a local even and didn’t have time to introduce yourself can be an acceptable reason. Or maybe you’re reaching out because you follow the person on social media and find yourself agreeing with them on a number of items.
Whatever the reason is make sure you at least have one and use it when reaching out. You’ll be much more likely to hear back form the mentor than if you reach out and get right into asking them to be your mentor.
Step 3 – Share Your Intentions And Desire For Help
Once you’ve made contact with the mentor and they’ve acknowledged you, you’ll want to share your intentions. There is something to be said for getting to know them whether it’s via email, phone conversation or face-to-face meeting, but you want to let them know early on that you’re looking for someone that can provide guidance or just a listening ear as you look to grow into your professional life.
We recommend starting the conversation by stating your reason for reaching out. Ask the person a few questions about themselves. Lead into their professional life and look for a way to move the conversation into your desires for them to be your mentor.
For example, ask the person about something they’re working on now. Once you’ve given them time to tell their story or to explain the situation, mention your interest in the topic and move into your desires as a professional. This is the perfect way to find common ground and show that a potential relationship can make sense.
Step 4 – Discuss Your Goals and What You Want To Work On
As you move through the discussion about a potential mentorship and you’re getting the person to somewhat agree to help you out you’ll want to begin discussing your goals. Discuss the plan you’ve laid out for yourself up to this point and where you’d like to be toward the end of your professional life.
From there you can discuss what you’re doing right now to work toward your goals. This give your mentor an idea of what you want to do and it will show them that you’re already working toward your goal. Through this discussion you’ll need to work in mention that with the help of this person that you’ll be able to find success.
Step 5 – Setup An Ongoing Mentorship Schedule And Process
Now that the mentor has agreed to help you’ll have to add formality to your arrangement. You’ll want to setup regular meetings. Regular check-ins—monthly is good—provide structure to the relationship. You can check-in with the person and discuss your goals, both long and short-term.
The schedule and structure gives the mentor a clear way to work with you and it will also give you the push you need each month to keep working toward your goal. Without formal structure, relationships like this tend to get lost in the shuffle. You might talk from time to time, but you’ll lose focus of your goals, especially the short-term goals.
What Makes A Mentor Want To Work With You
Finally, it’s good to know why someone would want to work with you and help you achieve your professional goals. There are a few reasons why someone would have a vested interest in helping you out. For one, if the person is a family member, especially a parent, they’ll have a natural desire to see you succeed. Your success will, in a way, be their success.
That’s the key to finding a mentor and getting them to buy-in to helping you. You have a find a way to give them satisfaction in seeing you find success. Your boss or colleague would likely want to see you succeed because your success within the same organization would likely correspond with the company’s success, which would benefit them.
Someone outside your family or organization might want to work with you because you show passion for fresh ideas and technology. Sometimes, veterans in industries look to form friendships with younger people so they can learn from them along with providing guidance and mentorship.
In the early discussions you have with your potential mentor you can ask them what they are hoping to get out of the relationship. It’s not all about you and if you can figure out why the person is interested in spending time with you; you can form a better structure for your ongoing relationship. This understanding can make the relationship more successful and fulfilling for both parties.