How to Choose a Mentor

Published on
July 26, 2021

With the recent pandemic creating another seismic shift in the global marketplace, the current labor forces must once again adapt. Although unemployment rates are falling from last year’s historic highs, many industries are still more competitive than ever. Many millennial job-seekers face high levels of competition for sought-after positions, making any competitive advantage that much more important to securing a new job. Even for those who are currently employed, the insecurity of work in the 21st century leaves many with a desire to be as prepared as possible for any and all eventualities. This is where mentorship comes into the picture.

A career mentor is someone who has the requisite experience, skills, and interpersonal style to help you navigate your professional life. Addressing current issues, planning for your next step, and carrying out a career transition are all things that a mentor can help you achieve. Though they often provide most of their mentorship surrounding career development, these experienced individuals also have a lot of life advice to offer as well!

Unfortunately, unless you are currently working for a company that offers in-house mentorship programming for career growth, finding the right mentor can be a daunting task — let alone approaching them to set up a mentorship arrangement. But don’t let any initial anxieties stop you from embarking on one of the most important journeys of your professional career. 

How to Find the Right Career Mentor

Mentorship is very much a two-way street. Although much of the relationship is tailored towards the development of the mentee, both parties walk away with valuable experiences that they can apply in the future. That’s why it’s imperative that you, as a mentee, take the time to properly plan out the process. 

There are a variety of personal, interpersonal, and professional factors that play into the optimal mentor-mentee match, and it’s by no means set in stone. By now, you’re probably well aware of the learning environments that are most productive for you and which educators have had the greatest impact on you. It’s a similar vetting process for the selection of your career mentor. 

From going through your personal goals to identifying the right mentorship style, here are some of the important considerations that will help you find the best mentor available. 

Know Your Goals 

Regardless of how you feel about your current position, you likely have goals that you want to accomplish throughout your career. Whether it's an immediate goal for improved output or a 5-year plan for how you’ll reach an upper-level position, it’s always good to be aware of your short- and long-term goals. And remember, these goals don’t just need to be constrained to your professional life; mentorship can also help your journey to a happier personal life as well!

You also need to make sure that you choose SMART goals. This helpful acronym ensures that you aren’t just thinking wishfully and that you can take concrete steps towards achieving your ideal future. SMART goals are:

Specific — Clearly outline the professional and personal skills you are looking to improve

Measurable — Develop benchmarks and checkpoints that you can use to measure progress

Achievable — Choose goals that you have a realistic chance of making a reality

Relevant — Analyze each goal and ensure it aligns with your overarching development plan

Time-Bound — Always constrain your goals within a set timeline for better adherence.

Planning these SMART goals ahead of time will help both you and any potential mentors decide whether you are a good fit for one another. These objectives will also give you a better idea of the right mentorship candidate and style for your needs.

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