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Finding your mentor in five simple steps

Written by: Aaron Hurst
Published on: Mar 11, 2024

woman with binoculars leung-cho-pan

(Image: Leung Cho Pan)

Mentoring is a powerful and necessary part of a meaningful career, as it fuels all three sources of fulfillment we need: relationships, making an impact, and growing as people.

In another article, I explored four types of mentors and the value each brings at specific moments in your career. But you may be wondering: How do you get started?

Great question! Here are our five steps:

1. Define your need.

Do you need a mentor to explore different career paths, provide emotional support during a tough time, be an advocate, or help you with a transition? It is important to be clear on this need so you can build a focused relationship and set expectations for yourself. (For more on needs, see my previous article.)

2. Know yourself.

Mentors help us build self-awareness, but you need to first spend some time reflecting on who you are and what you need to be fulfilled at work. Talking about what fulfills you at work will impress your mentor-to-be and inspire them to help you. (Consider a spa day of self-assessment to help you better understand what drives you.)

3. Look within your network.

Your next mentor is likely someone you already know. Use social media, your company directory, or personal contacts, and consider who you would most want to talk to given the type of mentoring you need. Look for three people already in your network who might fit, and offer to buy them coffee.

4. Position the ask.

Bluntly asking someone to mentor you might scare them off, as it can sound like a major commitment. Instead, begin by looking for advice, or even an informational interview. You might find that the first meeting is all you need.

5. Follow up.

The best way to build an ongoing relationship as a mentee is to follow up with your mentor. Send them a regular updates on your progress. Showing mentors the real impact of their advice and support is the most powerful way to say thank you.

And once you’ve secured a mentor, there’s no better way to honor the support you’ve received than by making room to advise others. Make it a point to ask, “How can I help you?” This question can open the door for your colleagues, teammates, or direct reports to see you as a possible mentor in their own career.

Aaron Hurst is founder of Imperative and the author of The Purpose Economy.

This article was fact-checked and updated in March 2024.

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