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Seeking a Mentor? 5 Tips to Consider

Whether seeking a promotion, change of job, or considering a career transition, one of the strongest career moves is to connect with others. Seek Advice. Seek Counsel. Build relationships. Ask people their stories.

Sounds easy. Not always. Unless you step up and make a move, inertia may become your reality.

So where do you begin? Draw a circle. Put yourself in the middle. Draw a ring of circles around you in the circle and fill those circles with names of professionals within your network of professional experiences whom you admire. You can rank order them, toss a coin and see where it lands. Explore networks. Do whatever you need. Be brave. Take the risk.

You don’t get what you don’t ask for. Ask someone to be your mentor – whether it’s to solve a problem, or to seek guidance and support as you work towards more long-term goals.

Getting your foot in the door and keeping a mentor relationship going might not be as complicated as you fear. Allow the relationship flow naturally. Provide reciprocal value. Share experiences. Maintain commitment to personal excellence and service. You will find the guidance you need to thrive.

1) Formal and Informal Relationships Build Naturally

Begin dialogue with prospective or assigned mentors naturally. Ask questions and request stories. It’s likely that a mentor’s narrative might be of relevance to your own experiences.

Awkward is natural. Vulnerability is a gift. Building rapport isn’t always easy. Things take time.

During initial dialogues, attempt to balance your passion with practicality. Being open and transparent about your dreams. It's terrific to be straightforward in talking about specific concerns, professional milestones or goals.

2) The Relationship Must Provide Mutual Value

While your mentor is willing to provide an ear, support and advisement, the relationship will only sustain itself if it is in some ways reciprocal in nature. Mentees who only reach out to their mentor for questions and answers will not have a mentor for long. Therefore, identify opportunities to share how you’ve taken feedback and used it – whether or not it worked. Your mentor should know the perceived impact they are making on the relationship. This is why you were the chosen one to invest in! While your mentor is willing to provide an ear, support and advisement, the relationship will only sustain itself if it is in some ways reciprocal in nature.

3) Experiences are Meant to be Shared

Always Be Curious. Dialogues in healthy mentor-mentee relationships go well beyond simple advice

While talking about the field of interest is usually engaging, most find their favorite topic of discussion is themselves. Mentees should take advantage of this by asking a mentor to describe certain experiences they’ve learned from (the good, the bad, the ugly). Not only do stories provide opportunities for learning, they also capture emotion - creating a shared sense of connection.

Repetitive, goal directed conversations can become exhausting. The mentee should drive the conversations, keeping at the forefront the purpose and goals of their work (both in the here and now and moving forward).

Deepen and maintain the relationship by focusing on goals and progress towards attainment.

4) A Commitment to Personal Excellence

Show up. Go beyond the bare minimum of a project, a job description or even your calling. Be willing to fail. Wear those stories on your sleeve like a badge of honor. Mentors are inspired by mentees who demonstrate the desire and drive to achieve greater success. They want to hear about conferences, networking and other relevant social events attended. Mentors want to see the rave reviews you’ve received from others with whom you’ve worked.

Don’t be shy. Let your mentor feel your excitement and see your drive. Be proud of those promotions you didn't get or jobs that weren't offered. Together, you learn from those experiences.

If you are struggling to make the next move happen, your history is a strong indicator of how you can be helped to overcome barriers, expand networks, and maybe….just can be brave enough to pivot and explore a new road.

Mentors are moved by mentees who, despite challenges, demonstrate both commitment and persistence. Sharing your pitfalls and your successes is important. Your experiences provide opportunities for the mentor to learn what’s important to you and evaluate where they can offer support.

5) Mentors Want to Serve

"The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity." Leo Tolstoy

At the very core of human motivation is purpose - the act of serving others for the greater good. People actually want to help others. In fact, some believe it’s an instinctual phenomenon, first demonstrated during infancy.

Be conscious of how you may be perceived, but don’t miss a great opportunity to ask for a favor. You are not going to be perceived as an annoyance or burdensome. Mentors appreciate knowing where specifically they can help.

What are you waiting for? Step up and don’t be afraid to fall. In fact, embrace the falls as opportunities for growth. This is your journey towards personal and professional success. Go for it!

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