Four common mistakes people make when trying to develop this important relationship.
A good mentor inspires you, helps you set goals, acts as a sounding board, introduces you to the right people, keeps you from making needless blunders and gives you a kick in the pants when you need one.
Maybe that’s why they’re so hard to find.
Then again, maybe you’re just looking in the wrong way. For example:
You’re asking a stranger. You are far, far more likely to make a mentor out of someone who’s already familiar with your abilities and personality. So forget hitting on Mark Zuckerberg and set your sights on a person whom you’ve impressed with your work ethic, experience and eagerness to learn, and who is three or four rungs higher on the ladder than you are.
You’re all take and no give. Think about what a mentor gets out of your relationship. It may be only the satisfaction of assisting a worthy person to achieve a worthy goal. Which can be enough, but you’ll still want to be enjoyable to work with, explicit with your thanks, and always on the lookout for ways you can help them. At the very least, send them links or clippings that might interest them, and offer to pay for coffee or lunch.
You’re putting decisions and actions on hold until you find a mentor. You’ve heard that having a mentor is the best way to succeed. But, honestly, the best way to find a mentor is to be already succeeding in some way. Work hard, take risks, go the extra mile (while being respectful, positive, resilient and supportive of others) and that perfect mentor may just find you, instead of the other way around.
You’re confusing mentor with therapist. Most mentors are not up for receiving 2,000-word emails describing how terrified you are about an upcoming job interview. They definitely don’t want to hear the gory details of your relationship problems and health issues. That’s what friends, and your mom, are for.
Rest assured that you can find a mentor. Maybe even more than one. Start by identifying people you want to be like. Make the effort to get to know them better. Let your relationship grow naturally. Before you know it, you’ll be asking for — and getting — the career guidance you crave.