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The ultimate guide to finding a mentor - and why it's important

Any successful professional will tell you that a mentor made a big difference in their career. It could be through an introduction, advice, or encouragement.

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Any successful professional will tell you that a mentor made a big difference in their career. It could be through an introduction, advice, or encouragement.

Any successful professional will tell you that a mentor made a big difference in their career. It could be through an introduction, advice, or encouragement. As a recent graduate, you are just starting out on your career and have a long way to go. You need someone who can hold your hand and walk this challenging journey with you. You need a mentor.

A mentor is an experienced individual who can share knowledge, experience, and advice with you. Unfortunately, most young people struggle to find mentors and even fail to understand the importance of having one. In this article, we shall discuss the benefits of having a mentor and the tactics you can use to find yourself a mentor.

Benefits of Having a Mentor

As a recent graduate, having a mentor will really help you get ahead in life and in a career. Mentors are helpful in so many ways, some simple as giving ideas and some difficult as calling it when you go wrong. Here are a few ways in which a mentor can help you.

  • Seeing the bigger picture. As someone who has been in the position you’re in, a mentor will give you a lot of insight into how you can move from one stage to the next. This helps you sail smoothly and climb the career ladder successfully.
  • Encouragement in bad times. A mentor will be there to support you when things get a bit hard. They will empathize with you and try to understand your situation.
  • Being a cheerleader. The one person you’re going to call when you land a promotion is your mentor (besides your mummy). A mentor will always be happy for you and will be glad to see you grow.
  • Introduction and connection. If you are lucky, you will find a mentor who is willing to introduce you to their personal contacts. This could be an opportunity to meet future employers and even more mentors.
  • Correction when you go wrong. A mentor will be there to point it out when you make mistakes. Good mentors will even suggest ways for you to correct yourself, provided you are willing to be corrected.

How Do You Find a Mentor

Mentors are everywhere. It could be someone from your industry of interest, a relative, or someone with the values and traits you’d like to emulate. The only difficulty is in reaching out and letting them know that you’d like to be their mentee.

A crucial step, however, before you start looking for mentors is to acknowledge that you actually need a mentor. It takes a lot of humility to recognize your areas for growth and be willing to learn. In order to have a successful mentor-ship experience, you must start from this point of humility. Moving forward from here will be a lot easier.

Reaching out to mentors and asking for support is usually the trickiest part. Most young people fail at this point, either feeling overwhelmed or not being prepared enough to start reaching out. Here’s how you can do it more successfully and get yourself a mentor.

  1. Find people that you look up to and respect. Take advantage of your personal contacts, your school alumni, your former lecturers and facilitators, and even people you’ve read or heard about. You can also join programs that connect you to an amazing community of mentors, an example of this is the ALX Launchpad.
  2. Identify the skills and values you’d like to learn from a prospective mentor. Try to be specific and state exactly how those skills and values will help you as a person.
  3. Do a little research on your prospective mentor. You want to learn some of the topics that interest them and how you can strike a conversation.
  4. Reach out and start a conversation. This could be via email, in-person, on phone, on LinkedIn, or on any other means and social platforms.
  5. Be polite and acknowledge the fact that you are asking for a lot, someone’s time. However, remember to state the reasons why you reached out to them specifically and how you will benefit from their mentorship.
  6. Ask if you could schedule a follow-up meeting or call. During this next interaction, try to establish a less formal relationship. You want to be as friendly as you can and let the mentor know that they can be open and free to share with you.
  7. Schedule a regular check-in with your mentor. In these check-ins, be prepared to lead the conversation as much as possible and be open to learning. This can be done through whichever medium you and your mentor agree on (although one-on-one interactions are more effective).
  8. Be proactive and follow up. Sometimes a mentor can be too busy and fail to respond to your emails and messages. Do not give up, allow for a reasonable amount of time and send a follow-up message.
  9. It’s okay to have more than one mentor. Mentors are people and like everyone else, they have strengths and weaknesses. Strive to emulate the strengths you see in a mentor and find others with more strengths that you can learn from.
  10. Implement. Do not just look for mentors and fail to implement what you learn. Learning and mentors become useless if you can’t implement what you learn.
  11. Stop and reflect. Take some time to evaluate how much you’ve learned and grown and the areas that you still need to grow in. Also, check if your mentor-ship is working or not. If not, it’ best to stop and find a different mentor.

As a Bottom-line

No matter how small a mentor’s help could be, having a mentor is an incredible opportunity for personal and career advancement. Any young person who wants to learn, grow, and succeed would definitely use a mentor’s help.

Lastly, you need to be proactive and take ownership of your journey. A lot has been said about finding mentors and building your career. Do you have a mentor? What are you still waiting for? Start reaching out to people, go check out communities like the ALX Launchpad, send those emails, make those calls. Whatever it takes, just start now!

Originally published by Trevor Kiplagat. 

Written by

Kelvin Mokaya

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