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A proactive approach to finding a mentor — in 5 easy steps

You’ve set some big goals for yourself in 2020. Now what? Who is in your corner helping you achieve them? You might need a mentor.

According to an Olivet Nazarene University study, 76% of people feel mentors are important, yet less than half of those surveyed actually have a mentor.

Whether your goals are business or life related, officially having someone to help map out a path to success is important. Mentors can provide emotional support, relevant feedback and advice. A mentor can help you navigate obstacles and focus on personal and professional development.

“Some people seek mentoring for the wrong reason. They seek mentoring just to meet people, just to network,” explains Leslie Snavely, chief digital officer at CHG Healthcare who also serves on the executive board of the Women’s Leadership Institute.

“Networking is great, but networking is more meet-and-greet and mentoring is more deep-advisory,” Snavely continued. “Those are two different things when it comes to your personal development.”

Most mentor-mentee relationships happen organically. In fact, the Olivet Nazarene University study found only 14% of the people surveyed took the initiative to ask someone to be their mentor.

We can do better than that. In fact, you are more likely to find the right mentor for you with a proactive approach.

Here are five things you can do to find the perfect mentor for you and make the most of your relationship.

1) Join a group

If you are intimidated by approaching a mentor directly, start with a peer group. Many national associations have local chapters. Identify a group or association whose expertise and success would be helpful to you in a group setting.

2) Find someone who has been where you want to be

Author and speaker Michael Hyatt says, “Never take advice from people who aren’t getting the results you want to experience.”

What results do you want to experience? Are you trying to balance a family and start a new business? Are you wondering how to get in line for that next promotion?

Megan Pyrah is a small business owner in Layton, Utah, who took finding a mentor into her own hands. “When I looked for a coach, I looked for someone who I could trust. I also looked for a mentor that ‘spoke’ the same language as me and was willing to meet me at my level,” she said.

“Mentoring and coaching has allowed me to grow faster. It’s helped me create movement faster, to widen my thinking and knowledge in different areas,” Pyrah added.

After you’ve identified who this influential person might be in your life, be brave and ask them to be your mentor.

3) Get to know each other and set a plan

Once you’ve found a new mentor, it’s important to build a relationship of trust. Start small and grab a cup of coffee or go to lunch together. As you get to know each other, share both your career and life goals. Be as transparent and honest as possible.

Next, decide how often you’ll meet and the best ways to communicate that work for both of you.

4) Remain teachable

Sometimes we lack perspective as we look toward our next options. Your mentor can help you see your future potential and help you isolate areas to focus on or the next steps to take toward success.

Michelle Edwards is a nursing informatics consultant with a master’s degree in the science of nursing. She found her mentor by approaching her manager at work and asking for their input, and she’s been fortunate to have different mentors from different areas in her company.

“Pay close attention when you are with your mentor,” Edwards suggested. “Take copious amounts of notes and learn from them. Don’t think that you know everything already.”

5) Take learning and follow-up into your own hands

This is your future and these are your goals. Even with a mentor, it’s still you who is doing the work to improve. Stay accountable. Don’t wait around for your mentor to follow up with you; follow up with them.

“For me,” Pyrah said, “having a mentor has sped up the process of excelling. I’m becoming a better business person and definitely a better person in general.”

Nicole Carpenter

Nicole Carpenter

Director, Women's Leadership Institute

Nicole Carpenter has been a part of the Women's Leadership Institute since its inception in 2015 as a member of the Advisory Board. In 2017, Nicole moved over as an integral part of the WLI team. In addition to the Women's Leadership Institute, Nicole continues to advocate for women as an author, speaker...