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How to find the right kind of mentor for you

In Monster’s latest podcast, mentoring expert Rebecca Rivera shares her tips on how to find—and ask—someone to be your mentor.

If you could have your own personal career coach, someone to bounce ideas off of and learn from on a regular basis, wouldn’t you jump at the chance? These days, more and more people are finding career mentors to do just that—and in fact, mentoring is so popular, many companies have created programs devoted to matching younger or less experienced workers with more senior-level pros.

But if you don’t work for one of those companies and you still want a mentor, how do you find one? We asked Rebecca Rivera, founder of www.SpeedMentoring.com, to share her tips for choosing a mentor who’s the right fit for you, and how to make the most of that one-on-one relationship.

Listen to our conversation in our new podcast Jobsessed (or subscribe here so you’ll get our job search and career advice as soon as it comes out). Alternatively, you can read an excerpt from the interview below.

 

Q: Mentoring is really a hot topic right now. Why do you think it’s become so popular?

A: My theory is that when the economy is doing better, it’s harder for companies to find good talent because there are more jobs for people to choose from. So business has woken up and realized that they really need to invest in the talent that they have and use everything they’ve got to attract the best talent. I also think that millennials in the workplace are demanding to be nurtured and looking to learn, so I think they’re really influencing and shaping the way that employers look at employees for the better.

Q: Why do you think it’s so important to have a mentor?

A: Mentoring is really just asking questions.  Asking questions is something that’s really valued when you’re younger. Curiosity is seen as a strength. But when you get into the workplace, in some cases, it’s seen as a weakness. If you ask too many questions, it seems like you don’t know what you’re doing. That just doesn’t make any sense. How are you going to learn something new, how are you going to open your mind to different possibilities if you’re not asking questions? That’s really all mentorship is. It’s giving someone a way to ask questions and get them answered.

Q: So how do you find a mentor?

A: The worst way to find a mentor is to ask someone cold turkey, “Will you be my mentor?” That’s like asking someone to marry you when you haven’t dated. It’s just not appropriate. The best way to find a mentor, whether it’s at your job or outside your job is to look at the person and think, “Does this person have expertise in a particular area where I’m having trouble right now?”

Q: How do you break the ice—or know that they’re the right person for the job?

A: Go to them with something small. Start with one question. Say, “I’m not sure how to do this. Have you ever done this before?” Just like any relationship, you want to build it. You also want it to be a chemistry test because that person may have a lot of expertise, but for some reason you may just not have the best chemistry.

Q: Where should people look for mentors?

A: Look at your network, look at the people that you work with and also consider industry events that you might want to go to. Look at it as these people you can draw from in little bits and pieces here and there.  Think of it as your personal board of directors.

Q: So, you can have more than one mentor?

A: Most people don’t have time to mentor lots of people individually, and one person may not know everything, so spreading it around is actually a great way to do it. 

Q: Is there any other criteria for finding or choosing a mentor?

A: I always think the real social glue is around the personal interests that you might share.  For instance, if you’re a marathoner, that love of running is the real super glue. Ideally, whoever the mentor is, look for those personal interests because those will really enrich the relationship.  Plus, it gives you as the mentee the opportunity to be giving back in some way. That loop of ‘you give to me, I give to you’ is always the best situation for any relationship.


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