Six steps to finding and working with the person who might just guide you to glory.

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Wax on… wax off.

Those words helped Mr. Miyagi guide the Karate Kid to the top at the All-Valley Karate Tournament. In perfect 1980s fashion, he proved to Daniel-san – and movie audiences everywhere – the powerful role a mentor can play.

Though times have changed – and, arguably, hairstyles improved – mentors can still mean the difference between success and failure. That’s especially true for working adults looking to karate kick-start their careers. Professional mentors help identify strengths, reveal blind spots and develop strategies for improvement.

It doesn’t take a black belt to find a professional mentor. The six steps below are a road map to finding and working with the person who might just guide you to glory.

  1. Have a plan… or at least an idea

Daniel LaRusso had a clear goal: getting Johnny and the bullies from Cobra Kai off his back. That’s the first – and perhaps most important – step to an effective mentor-mentee dynamic. Before asking someone for guidance, determine what you want to achieve. A detailed and actionable plan would be great, but it’s not necessary. At least have a concept of where you’re headed and your short-term objectives.

  1. Network and ask for help

Mr. Miyagi said it’s the quality of what you know, not quantity. Professionally, it’s also about who you know and how you leverage those connections. Meet people, develop relationships, and stay in touch. When the time comes you need mentoring, reach out and ask for help. Share your ideas and be clear you’re seeking guidance.

  1. Be the driving force

Your mentor will want to help, but it’ll be up to you to keep the relationship going. Invite them to coffee, email them updates and call them to share your successes. They are busy people, so do what you have to do – humbly and respectfully – to stay on their radar.

  1. Use ’em

A mentor’s greatest gift is their network. If they know someone who will help you achieve your goals, ask to be introduced. On top of that, your mentor will be experienced and successful. Chances are they’ve faced the same challenges as you and figured out solutions. Tap into all of that. Mr. Miyagi called it a sacred pact: if you promise to learn, mentors promise to teach.

  1. Ask for wisdom, not advice

Ignored advice is a debt unpaid. If someone is asked what to do and their recommendation is disregarded, they’ll hesitate to provide guidance next time around. Avoid that predicament altogether by seeking wisdom. Wisdom provokes deep-thinking and self-reflection. It sparks creativity and imagination. Advice is tactical.

  1. There’s a shelf life, and that’s okay

These days, it’s rare a career path follows a straight and narrow line. As you zig and zag through your professional life, your goals will change and need for mentoring evolve. Furthermore, your mentor’s ability and willingness to be there for you might change, too. All that means is your mentor-mentee relationship won’t last forever – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Show your gratitude thoroughly, remain friendly, and remember them when you reach the top. BANZAI!

WGU Washington is an online, competency-based university designed to expand access to higher education for Washington residents.