While your life’s goal at seven years old might have been to become a Power Ranger, you have now settled into adulthood and begun to seriously think about the trajectory you want your career to take. As children, we all looked for examples to model our behavior after. Whether they were older siblings, parents, celebrities, or even fictional characters, we would look up to people who were doing things that we aspired to do in the future. And even as we are now adults and embarking on our own career journeys, that childlike tendency to find inspiration in others never leaves us. That is why, regardless of your field, having a career mentor is valuable.
Chances are there is someone in your organization or career field whose skills and abilities you admire. And inversely there are many successful professionals who would love the opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise with an ambitious and eager young person. When the right two people come together it could be a match made in heaven, mutually beneficial. But specifically for you, the mentee, it is a chance to develop a relationship with someone who has been through what you are currently going through.
Now notice I said the relationship could be a match made in heaven, implying that it is possible for it to be a disaster as well. One likely cause of an unsuccessful mentor-mentee relationship is that one or both parties entered into the relationship for the wrong reasons. In your case, as the mentee, you should never seek out a mentor because you think that person can get you promoted. The goal should be to leverage the experience of the mentor to aid your own professional development. Promotion and career advancement can sometimes be a natural byproduct, but it should not be your lone motive. You will benefit the most if your approach is less self-serving.
Below are a few other points to take into consideration as you search for a mentor.
Use your resources
The company you work for or professional organizations you are a part of may have programs that match people like you with formal mentors. Explore these opportunities, you just might find who you are looking for.
Different can be good
Obviously, if you are a first-year lawyer your ideal mentor would not be a surgeon. But some degree of contrast can be helpful. For example, the personality type of your mentor does not necessarily need to match yours exactly. If your mentor thinks and acts just like you, they will be incapable of giving you the constructive feedback that only a person looking through a different lens can give you. Also, be open to mentors of the opposite gender and of different ethnic backgrounds.
Be willing to invest the time
All relationships require time to be invested. You want to find a mentor who you want to get to know as a person and who has the time and desire to get to know you as a person. The better you know each other the more comfortable you will be talking to them about career issues.