“Find a mentor” is great career advice but be careful not to take it too literally. You don’t just need one. Why?
One of the benefits of having a mentor is that you get to learn from their past experiences. If you ask the right questions, you can get their perspective on how to negotiate politics at work, ask for a raise, and which projects will get you the most visibility. The advice they dish out is shaped by their career path, values, and goals. This means, however well-intentioned they may be, their advice is also somewhat biased and their baggage — good or bad — will inevitably become a part of your journey.
You’ll gain a more valuable outlook by triangulating advice from multiple mentors at the same time. But how do you find these mentors?
The first step is to envision what you want your career and life to look like five years down the road. What do you want to do? How do you want to feel? How will it be different from the present?
Creating a vision of the future is a staple of personal and professional development for good reason. By starting off with a sense of where you want to go, you can more clearly identify the steps you’ll need to take to get there, starting from where you are now. At this point, allow yourself to dream big without worrying too much about how realistic you’re being. The purpose here is to identify the help you’ll need to progress on your path, regardless of whether this exact vision becomes reality or not.
Next, create a list of the different types of support you’ll need to get from where you are now to where you want to be. Think creatively and expansively.
- What knowledge do you need to obtain?
- What skills will you need to develop?
- What connections will you need to make?
Then consider which of these roles are currently fulfilled by mentors and which aren’t.
- Who do you go to for emotional support now?
- Where are you getting your tactical advice?
- Who helps you understand the ins and outs of your company?
For any roles that are “missing” a mentor, brainstorm who could fill that need.
Then you can develop new relationships or strengthen existing ones according to those needs. You’ll also find that potential mentors are much more inclined to say yes to providing support or advice on a particular topic than to the general question, “Will you be my mentor?”
Finally, don’t forget to listen to your own compass, your own values, energy drivers and emotions. If you know how to tune in on your personal compass, you will discover a sustainable source of valuable insights.
This tip is inspired by an article by Alyssa F. Westring