By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes

We have all heard the saying, “You are who you surround yourself with.”  

But then, how many of us actually change who we are surrounded by?  

As a business and career coach, I have worked with many clients who feel stuck in their career growth and personal development. But when I ask them who their mentors are, they stare back blank-faced with no answer.

One of the best ways to level up who you interact with and learn from is to get a mentor or join a mentoring group. Let’s look at where mentors came from, why they are important and where to find one.

History and Definition

A fun history lesson for you: The first recorded mentor dates back to The Odyssey when Odysseus went off to fight in the Trojan War and entrusted his kingdom to Mentor. Mentor acted as his son’s teacher and guide during his absence.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a mentor as a trusted counselor or guide. This is someone who is willing to dedicate time and energy into advising you through professional and personal life goals and transitions. Sounds pretty great, right?

Why You Should Have One

Not sold yet on getting one? You should be.

People like Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg have long-lasting mentor relationships with Steve Jobs and Larry Summers. Oprah Winfrey was mentored for years by the late Maya Angelou. These successes benefited from mentorships and so will you.

A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology proved that people who seek out mentors are more likely to be promoted. That is no coincidence. Additional Studies have shown that women gained more social capital from affiliation with high-status mentorship.

A mentor is someone who you can bounce ideas off of, gain support and guidance from and look to as an example of where you want to go and who you want to become.

Where to Find One

Now you want one, but don’t think you can find one? Think again.

Seventy percent of Fortune 500 companies have mentorship programs. If you work for a large corporation, you should have no trouble joining a mentor program. A great way to find out if one exists within your company is by reaching out to the HR department or asking your manager for information.

Many people assume that their manager is a mentor, this is a huge mistake. A mentor should really be someone else. A managers main role is to ensure the goals of the team or company are met, not your personal development. Your mentorship should extend beyond the day-to-day tasks of your job. It is also valuable to have an outsider perspective where being completely vulnerable and open are possible.  

If you work freelance, remote or for a small company there are countless options to explore. A quick Google search can show local networking groups or even mentor programs in your area. University Alumni groups are another place to look for a mentor. Another great resource is LinkedIn. If you find someone’s profile you connect with, be brave and send them a message.

You will be surprised at how open someone can be when you reach out expressing how impressed you are with them and would love to learn from their experiences.

Once you have connected with your mentor or mentors, the real work begins! And remember this quote by Steve Washington, “Mentoring is a 2-way street. You get out what you put in.”

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  • I'm a career coach, keynote speaker, podcast host (You Turn Podcast) and author, here to help you step into a career you're excited about and aligned with. This may look like coaching you 1:1, hosting you in one of my courses, or meeting you at one of workshops or keynote speaking engagements! I also own CAKE Media, a house of ghostwriters, copywriters, publicists and SEO whizzes that help companies and influencers expand their voice online. Before being an entrepreneur, I was an award-winning counterterrorism professional who helped the Pentagon in Washington, DC with preparing civilians to prepare for the frontlines of the war on terror.