5 tips that will help you find and keep a professional mentor

21 Oct 2022

In his 2009 publication, E. Wayne Harte defined mentorship (professional mentor) as an “intentional developmental relationship in which a more experienced and a knowledgeable person nurtures the personal and professional life of less experienced and less knowledgeable person”.

It can be both a formal (in an institutionalised setting) and an informal process (involving personal encounters). In most cases, a mentor is someone who gives honest feedback on a mentee’s ideas/tasks and shares newer perspectives to overcoming a specific problem.

Several existing studies link mentorship to improved productivity, efficiency, and motivation. However, finding a life-changing mentor is a demanding task.

Moreover, the challenges involved in sustaining enriching relationships with valuable mentors make things more complex. We list down a few tips that can help people to recognise revered mentors and maintain long-lasting bonds with them:

#1. Map your goals first

It is easier to navigate one’s professional career and seek mentorship if he/she has clearly charted out their priorities and objectives.

Mentorship is redundant if an employee does not have an articulate road map of his short-term and long-term goals. It is thus advisable for people to have, at least a rough idea of their professional or personal aims, before trying to look for a mentor who can help them achieve it all.

This enables employees to recognise a mentor who has applied novel ways to achieve goals similar to theirs.

#2. Locate a professional mentor who has similar interests

Mentors can come from several educational backgrounds and possess various skill sets in different employment sectors. They could be CEOs, board members, industry leaders, senior practitioners, educators or researchers.

The key is to identify a mentor who best suits a mentee’s areas of interest. They need to have vast knowledge in their chosen field of expertise and parallel strengths/skills in the field you aspire to excel.

For example, a stock trader should be on the look out to find someone who can teach him/her minute tricks of the trade. Such a mentor should also care about the trader’s profit and teach him to base his transaction decisions on reliable research.

Try to locate a mentor who is not part of your conventional relationship circles such as family, distant acquaintances, old friends, etc. Also, avoid having celebrity mentors who charge a bomb to shell out wisdom.

#3. Get in touch and communicate your expectations

The best possible way to get in touch with potential mentors in through professional networks. For example, attend public events where your much-admired mentors are scheduled to speak and connect with them accordingly.

In more approachable instances, drop by their office and make a polite request to share a cup of coffee. In other cases, you can also send them a well-drafted mail. One can also call on their official numbers to have a word.

Next up, converse openly on the kind of expectations you have from their mentorship. This includes discussing details such as which professional aspect you need mentoring on, what you aspire to learn, how often to meet/follow-up, etc.

#4. Be aware that mentorship is a two-way street

Empirical evidence also suggests that mentorship is ‘reciprocal and collaborative’. It means that mentorship benefits even mentors apart from those being mentored.

The results of the study titled ‘Career benefits associated with mentoring for mentors: A meta-analysis,’ reiterated the same. It found that mentors as compared to non-mentors “were more satisfied with their jobs and committed to the organisation”.

Qualitative studies have also listed qualities such as altruism, patient listening skills and professional experience to be associated with effective mentors.

#5. Keep in touch and enrich your relationship with your mentor

Since mentorship is a highly individualistic exercise, it is mostly upon protégés to regularly keep in touch.

This includes sending follow-up mails after scheduled meetings, updating mentors about your career progression, giving occasional gifts such as books etc. These simple gestures can go a long way in nurturing the mentor-mentee relationship.

Mentorship inspires mentees to challenge their thought processes, handle setbacks and gradually achieve glorious heights. Hence, it is important for everyone to carefully invest their time and resources to find and keep a treasured mentor.

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