How to Find a Mentor (and what to look for!)

At any step in your career, mentorship can be key to professional development and advancement. A Gartner study shows that mentees were promoted five times as often than those not mentored. Another study by Ragins, Cotton and Miller showed that overall, mentees experience higher career satisfaction, career commitment, career mobility, and positive job attitudes. But how do you go about finding a mentor, particularly outside of your organization? Here are some tips to get you started.

Use your existing networks

Are you in a workplace, school or other community with people who share your interests? You may already know someone who would be a good mentor. Or you may know someone who could connect you to a potential mentor. So ask around, and ask people to introduce you to potential connections via email. That puts them in control of the conversation and gives you a natural introduction.

Join new communities

There are countless organizations out there for many different interest groups, and odds are there’s one for you. Simply search for it! Another way to find new communities is to watch the hashtags on Twitter. For example, I watch #womenintech, #3Dprinting, #fashiontech and #technology a lot just to see who and what organizations are tweeting about these areas I am interested in.

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Connection is more important than accomplishments

You’ve found the mentor you always hoped for: she’s got a PhD in your field, years of work experience and has agreed to mentor you. But there’s one problem: conversation feels forced. This mentor is not right for you. If you feel like you can’t properly connect with the person who’s agreed to mentor you, it’s probably time to close that chapter and move on. And that’s perfectly okay! It’s more important to feel comfortable with your mentor and build a good relationship with them than it is to find a mentor with impresssive credentials.

Social media is your best friend

People who are active on social media (read: actually tweet, not just have accounts that sit there quietly) are already open to conversations with people they don’t know. The beautiful thing about social media, and the real point of it, is that it allows you to connect with people from all walks of life in a casual way. What we used to call Facebook stalking is now a natural part of online networking, and people expect to be discovered online. Don’t hesitate to reach out to someone on social networks – and when you do, be casual, polite, and interested.

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You may also be able to find their email online, many people list their contact information on their personal sites or LinkedIn profiles.

See also: Trendy Techie’s Guide to Tweetworking

The worst they can say is ‘no’

When in doubt, just go for it. The worst they can say is no, and if that happens then nothing has changed, except now you won’t go on wondering if you missed out. Don’t tell yourself you’re not good enough or important enough, let them decide.

And remember, every successful person was once at the beginning of their career, too. They likely had mentors who helped them reach their goals, and might be willing to help you reach yours.

started from the bottom

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