How to Find a Mentor –
and Why They're Vital to Career Success
Mentoring is an increasingly popular channel for learning, development and career progression. Yet, finding a mentor isn’t always easy.
As someone who setup a mentoring platform off the back of the challenges I had around finding a mentor, I know how tricky it can be. So, in this article I’m going to tell you a few ways in which you can find a mentor.
First though, let’s take a step back and ensure we’re all on the same page as to what a mentor is and how they can help.
Mentoring, simply put, is the concept of an individual sharing their knowledge, skills and/or experience with another person, to help them to grow. Typically mentoring impacts the professional and career elements of growth, but not always. Mentors can have a profound effect on personal and professional lives and they’re so important for several reasons. Unlike coaching which is typically based on a set of learning tools and objectives, mentoring is far more flexible and is born from personal experience.
A mentor is someone you can learn from, rendering the knowledge and skills they have developed, in a way that works best for you. Mentors typically provide their insights from the things they have achieved and accomplished in their own career – and sometimes even the failures and mistakes they have made.
You may want a mentor to support you in general career progression, or with certain challenges you’re in the midst of, within your career. Either way, mentors are extremely valuable and vital to career success. So, given how important mentoring is, where can you find your mentor?
Networking is a powerful tool for finding a mentor. Not only does networking have enormous and far-reaching benefits in all aspects of career progression (of which I’m sure you’ll know), but networking can be a great way to meet those in your industry, city or company who will help you to develop your career and become a mentor to you.
You can network in a number of ways, such as through professional networks online, at networking meetups, seminars and events, through exhibition spaces hosting networking ‘breakouts’ and in office environments too. With the rise of co-working spaces, this opens up further opportunities for networking.
Ensure that when you’re meeting new professionals you let them know that you’re looking for a mentor and ask if they might know of someone suitable. As always with networking, make sure it’s mutually beneficial. See who you can introduce them to and how you can help them as well. Networking works best when it’s sincere, helpful and beneficial.
Most larger organisations now have mentoring schemes and programmes in place for employees to get involved, volunteer to mentor colleagues, and be mentored by colleagues too.
If you aren’t sure whether your organisation has a mentoring scheme, the best people to approach are your HR or learning and development department (the latter function often sit together with HR). Human resources should be able to point you in the right direction and advise you on mentoring schemes and opportunities in your organisation. If your organisation does have a mentoring scheme, make sure you sign up your interest and let your manager and HR department know how keen you are to be mentored.
Finding a mentor within your organisation can offer additional benefits such as understanding the specific organisation’s culture, working methods and industry insights that an external mentor might not be able to offer – that said, there are also benefits to an external mentor.
PushFar is a fast-growing online mentoring platform that you can join free and volunteer to mentor other professionals and students, as well as finding a mentor too.
The network offers a fresh approach to mentoring, making it more accessible for everyone, everywhere. It’s industry agnostic and I co-founded it after I was struggling to find a mentor myself. The platform asks a few basic questions about your industry, profile and what you are looking for from a mentor (or looking to help others with), you can join as either a mentor, mentee, or both. Above and beyond mentor matching and personalised mentoring recommendations, the platform is designed to help you manage your mentoring relationships, schedule meetings with your mentor and set your career goals. It’s a great, quick and effective way to find a mentor.
A great way to find a mentor is through an alumni network.
If you went to college or university, the chances are that they will have an alumni network which may well offer mentoring schemes and initiatives. Alumni networks are great for mentoring students and finding fellow alumni to mentor you.
Even if you didn’t attend a college or university, your school may well offer a mentoring network. So, have a look at what’s available based on your old educational haunts. What is more, even if your old college or university don’t yet offer a mentoring scheme, you could be a real legend and offer to set one up for them – with access to thousands of alumni, universities and colleges are perfectly positioned to set mentoring schemes up and often just need the support and motivation from an old student to encourage the foundation of them.
Friends and Family
If you’ve tried the above and are still no closer to finding a mentor, then why not try asking your family and friends?
We wouldn’t necessarily recommend appointing a family member or friend as a mentor as mentoring works best when the relationship is kept relatively professional and removed from immediate familiarity. However, your family or friends may well know a suitable individual to mentor you and it is worth asking them.
Let them know what you’re looking for, the sort of industry or position you would like your mentor to be in and see where their networks’ might be able to help you.
So, there we have a few different ways in which you can find a mentor. Remember, mentoring can offer some incredible, flexible and vital resources to developing your career, facing certain challenges and ultimately thriving in your working life.
If you’re being mentored, you should consider also giving back and volunteering to mentor others too. Mentoring works best when experience is passed up and down the chain.
About the Author
Ed Johnson is CEO and Co-Founder of PushFar.com, a world-leading mentoring and career progression platform. With experience in digital marketing and online startup growth, Ed now mentors others and advocates mentoring across the world.