Good Mentors Can Take Your Career to the Next Level. Here’s How to Find One

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Step 1: Finish school.

Step 2: Get a good job.

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Figuring out the path to success can be tough — especially since life doesn’t come with an instruction manual.

While charting your own path is great, imagine how much you would benefit if you had guidance from someone who once walked in your shoes.

Why Should I Have a Mentor?

“Whatever it is that you want to accomplish in life, a mentor is going to kick start you on the path to achieve it,” Dan Gheesling, reality TV personality, coach and author, wrote on his blog.

He found having a mentor helped him confirm his desire to pursue a career as a football coach. In addition, his football coach mentor helped to boost his confidence and served as a valuable resource when he was looking for new employment.

Mentors can be essential in providing certain opportunities for their mentees, such as job leads or introductions to other influential figures in their fields. They can also help their mentees by simply providing information or counsel.

Chris Myers, cofounder and CEO of financial solutions company BodeTree, said the mentors he’s had over the years gave him several big breaks. In an article he wrote for Forbes, Myers said the CEO from his first job out of college influenced his career trajectory in a major way by introducing him to the worlds of entrepreneurship, writing and executive management.

Later in his career, he had another mentor who helped to pull the initial concept for BodeTree out of him.

How Do I Get a Mentor?

It’s not always easy to find the right person to mentor your professional life.

Writer Jeff Goins shared excellent advice on finding and initiating a relationship with a potential mentor. He recommended first asking to have an informal meeting to test the waters, then evaluating whether there’s a connection and then letting the relationship evolve naturally.

Some companies — like Sodexo, Deloitte and Liberty Mutual — have mentoring programs in place where junior employees can be matched with a senior leader.

Additionally, LinkedIn is enhancing its social network by rolling out a new feature this summer that will allow members to find upper-level professionals who’ll serve as informal mentors.

What Should I Look for in a Mentor?

Just like no two relationships are exactly the same, your approach to mentorship may vary widely from the next person’s — and that’s OK.

Carlos Mark Vera, founder of Pay Our Interns, told The Atlantic he thinks mentorship doesn’t have to last forever and that you can have different types of mentors for different seasons in your life.

On the other hand, Melissa Harris-Perry, professor, author and political commentator, told The Atlantic she thinks there’s never a time when mentoring an individual ends.

You could look for a mentoring relationship that’s formal or one that’s more casual. You could find a mentor that’s local or one who’s hundreds of miles away. Your mentor may work in the same company as you, or your mentor may not even be in the same industry.

But your mentor should be able to teach you, guide you, answer your questions and challenge you. Simply put, your mentor should help you grow.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.