Money & Career
4 Tips to Find a Career Mentor
6/1/2017 12:11:13 PM

Mentor


It’s not unusual for careers to get off to wobbly starts as young people, hampered by their lack of experience and contacts, find it difficult to achieve a firm footing. For that reason, they should make it a goal to find mentors who could help guide them through the rough patches.


"One of the biggest benefits of having a mentor is that person’s success can act as a catalyst for your belief in yourself,” says Lauren Davenport, CEO and founder of The Symphony Agency, a marketing and technology firm.


"It’s also a way to expand your network. A mentor can introduce you to people who could help you with your career and who you otherwise might not meet.”


While mentors can be a great asset for young people in their career advancement, don’t expect the mentor to materialize out of nowhere and then do all the heavy lifting, Davenport says. Much of the onus is on the mentee to seek the relationship, cultivate it, and make the most of it.


Read on for tips from Davenport to foster a mentor/mentee relationship.


Actively reach out. A simple LinkedIn search can help you find people who are currently in your dream job. Somehow, they managed to get the very thing you want. How did they pull that off? Send them a short message and tell them your aspirations. Ask if they can spare thirty minutes for you to visit their office and "pick their brains” about how they achieved success.


Do your homework. After going to all the trouble to set up that meeting, you’ll want to show up prepared. Learn all you can about this potential mentor with a Google search. Write down any questions you want to ask. For the meeting, dress like you already have a job with the person’s company and be ten minutes early. 


Join a networking organization. If reaching out to an individual isn’t in your comfort zone, seek a networking organization that focuses on career growth. Sign up for a Meet Up group taught by someone you admire. "Take notes as the person speaks,” Davenport says. "After the event, you’re also going to need to muster up the courage to introduce yourself. To find a good mentor, in most cases you really are going to need to take the first step.”


Heed the mentor’s advice. You may not follow through on every suggestion, but you do need to listen to what they have to say. After all, the wisdom and experience they can provide is the whole point of having a mentor. Davenport recalls early in her career joining a networking group and trying to pitch her company to the members without success. She mentioned to her mentor her inability to generate any business. "She told me if I wanted to be taken seriously as a business woman I needed to change my wardrobe,” Davenport says. "I put away the summer dresses I typically wore and bought some tailored jackets and other clothes that helped present a business-professional look.”  Soon after, business picked up.


"I still actively seek women who are in my industry and at similar career levels,” Davenport says. "Sometimes they even work for competitors. We don’t share any company secrets, but we often experience similar struggles, so we swap stories and give each other advice on how to overcome those challenges.”

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