To find a mentor can be tricky. From job seekers to people at senior positions, everyone at some point or the other has felt the need for a mentor for advice, and there’s nothing wrong in it. It certainly doesn’t mean you’re incapable of taking decisions for yourself. Sometimes we do a lot better with a little bit of insight, guidance and motivation. Mentors in this regard are like catalysts and prove advantageous to anyone planning to navigate their career paths at any level.
Although finding a mentor can be an intimidating process, but here’s how you can successfully find one for yourself. This will perhaps also give you a reality check. Do away with the traditional definition of a ‘mentor’
Do away with the traditional definition of a ‘mentor’
Don’t day dream about a mentor who will announce their arrival and say, “Hey, I got your back”. You’ll need to be proactive. Your mentor may or may not be someone who is older than you or have more experience than you do. Stop with the pigeonhole thinking. Sometimes your peer may look like a perfect fit to be your mentor or someone from outside your office or from within your professional network or even family could be the one who can drive some sense in times of confusion! The bottom line is that it should be someone whose work you value, whose work ethics you admire and who you genuinely think can propel your career towards better.
Identify someone who challenges you to evolve
It is human nature to develop a certain sense of likeability towards those with whom we have a lot in common. This may come handy when making friends, but not when you’re on your quest to find a mentor. Look for someone who has traits you lack. For instance, you may possess poor networking skills since you’re an introvert, so it’ll be a good idea to find someone who is bold and outgoing. Besides, it’s natural for you to fall into patterns and have a similar approach to deal with a certain situation, so having a mentor will help you get you out of that rut. That’s called evolving which is beneficial no matter what stage of your career you’re in.
Approach someone who is a good listener and not bossy
Self-love is never too bad except when you want others to become your spitting image. Some mentors may be guilty of such self-love. It is ideal that you be cautious and immediately distance yourself from people who you think are potential mentors and want to mould you in their cast and make you entirely dependent on them. They are usually bossy and like to have the reigns of your career in their hand. However, no true mentor loves doing that, for they know the path is yours to walk and they can only guide you, not lead you on.
One is probably not enough
You may have heard of board of directors in an organisation, but you can create your own set of ‘board of advisors’ or mentors because sometimes one may not be necessarily enough. But, for this you need to clarify what you want from your mentor(s). If you’re looking for industry insights, spot someone from within the industry; if you want someone to give you an objective piece of advice reach out to someone from outside your workplace; and if you want entrepreneurial guidance connect with someone who has experiences worth learning from. Like I said, one may not be enough.
A mentor usually has many stories to be told
Remember how our parents put us to bed with bedtime stories and how we as adults still do switch on the bedside lamp and indulge ourselves in some reading time? Mentors are your guides who have a fair share of experiences they love to narrate to you. They want you to learn from their successes and mistakes they’ve made in their career. Seek answers to the questions they pose. Ask questions and make sure you have at least one takeaway from your coffee-table discussion or virtual chats.
Most of all, remember no one is ever too old to find a mentor, so why deprive yourself? The only one true sign of a learner is someone who seeks to grow through not just your own experiences but that of others too. Also, express your gratitude for their help and advice all along because your relationship should not be like a parasite-host one, but symbiotic.
The author of the article is Co-founder of Work Better Training. Work Better Training is one of India’s fastest growing Executive Education and Training firm. The views expressed here are personal.