Throughout my career, I’ve been very fortunate to have great mentors. At any stage in your career, especially the beginning, you might be faced with uncertainty, a difficult work environment, or ethical dilemma. A mentor – or a tribe of mentors – can help you navigate various aspects of your career. 

Reaching out to someone with years of experience and extensive expertise has many benefits.

You can learn from them as they offer advice and steer you towards useful resources, and they can give you guidance as well as encouragement and support. A mentor also provides you with a listening ear and advice when you face problems at work. 

When you have a mentor on your side, you will build confidence and knowledge in your field. Here are some tips for  finding a mentoring relationship that will benefit you. 

Determine Your Career Goals

What are your professional and personal goals? You should have this in mind when you talk with your mentor. Understanding your own goals and being able to articulate them to a potential mentor will help you both determine if that person would be a good fit for you as a mentor. If you’re not sure about your career goals, set aside time to think about your ideal career and write down your short-term and long-term vision. Where do you want to be in 5 years? 15 years? What do you hope to achieve? How do you want to impact the industry? The clearer your vision, the easier it will be for your potential mentor to help. Also, depending on your objectives, your potential mentor might redirect you to someone else with more experience in that industry or who can better advise you on your dream career. 

Consider Possible Candidates

Don’t ask just anyone to be your mentor. Look at various people both inside and outside of your organization and social network. Attend networking events to expand the number of people you know in your field. Social media is also a great place to meet new people who are doing amazing things in their careers and can help you with your own. Evaluate them carefully. Do you admire their work ethic? Are they at a point in their career where you’d like to be someday? Are they respected in your industry? What is the scope of their professional network? Also, consider if you two would mesh well together. When you talk with this person and share aspects of yourself, it’s imperative that you feel comfortable speaking with them and are confident in their advice and guidance. Mentorship works best when you can be frank and vulnerable enough to ask for what you need and trust the wisdom and input your mentor provides. 

Develop a Sincere Relationship

Do not open with a request or cold-email a stranger. Instead, seek to develop a relationship.Get to know this person before asking to have a mentor-mentee relationship. , By taking your time to get to know your potential mentor and by developing a sincere relationship, you’ll be able to assess their personality, ability to relate with you and willingness to help. You’re also letting your own personality shine as you get to know them.

Be Prepared Before You Ask

When you are ready to approach someone to mentor you, remember to make sure they are the right fit. You can’t just simply ask anyone to be a mentor and expect that they accept right away. Mentoring someone is a serious time commitment. Show your mentor that you respect yourself and their time enough to have carefully considered this proposal. You should be prepared to answer questions and to explain why you’re interested in this person as a mentor. Demonstrate that you are committed to being a mentee and not merely asking for ad hoc advice. Mention what you admire about their career, approach, perspective, etc.,  and why you think they’d be a good fit. If the person initially hesitates or refuses, do not be angry or take it personally. Instead, thank them for their time, ask for feedback about your approach, and recommendations for other potential mentors either in the workplace or in your industry.

Prepare to Commit and Invest

Be prepared not only to ask for advice, but show your mentor how you have incorporated their suggestions, or why you decided to go in another direction. The support and knowledge that a mentor extends to you will help you at each stage of your career, however, the relationship will be short-lived if you appear inattentive or ungrateful.

Be prepared to offer your perspective in return, as it’s a relationship that must be nurtured both ways. Not only will you rely on your mentor, but they’ll need you as well. As a new person in the field, you could offer fresh insight and opinions about the industry. Think creatively about what you can offer your mentor and not simply what you can get from the relationship. Are you open to collaborating on a pitch? Volunteering with their nonprofit? Writing a review for their new book? Give them feedback on a new business venture? Show gratitude, reciprocity and consideration throughout the relationship and it will blossom. A great mentor-mentee relationship will be valuable for both you and your mentor.