How to Find a Good Mentor

By: Laura Lofthouse, Senior Vice President, Media Delivery, Valassis
Published Thursday, Oct 13, 2016

How to Find a Good Mentor

Mentors make a difference. Actually, let’s clarify – good mentors make a difference. But how do you find a good mentor? Do you know anyone that credits a good mentor as leading to their personal success? Think back over your life experience. What people positively influenced you? Maybe a teacher or coach? Perhaps a person with a few years of experience under their belt in your industry or at your company at the onset of your career? Regardless, mentoring comes in many shapes and sizes. Some relationships work, and realistically, some don’t. So how do you increase your chance of finding a good mentor and having a successful mentoring relationship?

Balance your weaknesses with your mentor’s strengths. When seeking a mentor, start with a realistic self-analysis and consider feedback people have shared in the past. Where do you struggle or need a push? In what areas are you successful? Find a mentor that cares enough about your success to tell you the honest truth. Look for someone who balances you and can be objective about areas where you can improve. The feedback will only make you better.

Find multiple mentors. Yes, it's okay to have more than one. The benefit of this is that different people offer different perspectives and exposure. Keep in mind however, that too many opinions can make a development plan more difficult. It’s important to find a select few people who can help you meet your goal. 

The critical expectation. Effort is required on your part to maintain meaningful relationships with your mentors. It may be valuable to seek career advice from a work mentor who knows the culture, expectations and politics of your company. Another mentor may be able to provide a focused mentorship with one targeted goal in mind. With each relationship, clearly set expectations about what you hope to gain.  

Get creative. When seeking mentors, there’s a tendency to rely on traditional channels – primarily our immediate work environment.  Challenge yourself to consider other sources such as professional groups, alumni associations and connections within your community.  While they can be a bit riskier, take advantage of social media channels such as LinkedIn. Use your connections for an introduction to another professional with the experience and knowledge you seek.  

Consider a reverse mentor. This concept made popular by GE CEO Jack Welch, and particularly helpful for baby boomers and gen Xers to gain a unique perspective from someone that may have less work experience, can offer a valuable millennial viewpoint. This may help you stay fresh, relevant, and connected. Although you may have a wealth of experience, it’s important to change with the times, set new goals and expectations, and be current in the workplace. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can’t learn from others who are younger, with less experience.

Exit if it isn’t working. If the mentoring relationship isn’t providing the value being sought for either party, it’s okay to exit. Don’t waste you or your mentor’s time going through the motions. Be polite and find a gracious way to move on. Not all pairings are a match made in heaven and it’s your responsibility to make this determination.

No matter how the relationship works out, it’s important to realize that having a mentor is only one step in your career journey. Use your experience to improve. Take the key nuggets that are relevant and continue down the path toward your future.