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The no-pressure guide to finding a mentor

April 24, 2015
By Vanessa Ulrich

These days it seems like everyone is looking for a professional mentor, and with good reason. A mentor can help walk you through making tough decisions, share their lessons learned, and be a sounding board for ideas. But it’s also more than a little intimidating to think about going out and finding one.

The good news is that you don’t need to go to the most successful people in your field or city and ask, ”Will you be my mentor?” In truth, that very question might scare them away. (Time commitments! Expectations!) Alternately, consider cultivating a network of relationships with people whose wisdom and experience you value. Seek their insight and guidance to your pressing issues—if one of those people stands out and clicks with you, fantastic! If not, that’s OK too. At the very least, you’ll meet and talk to some amazing people. And the sum of all of them together might equal a mentor—or more.

Tips for finding (or creating) your mentor:

1. There is no one end-all, be-all mentor. You might approach different people based on different areas you’re working on: project management, people management, navigating office politics. You’re narrowing your pool if you look around trying to find the one person out there with expertise in everything you’re looking for.

2. Sometimes office politics gets in the way—so look outside your office. Go to networking events, tech association gatherings, hackathons, or anywhere else you can meet people you don’t work with day to day.

3. Find people you enjoy talking to, whom you think you can learn from. Take them out to lunch or coffee. Pick their brain. Start by asking for advice on a specific project or problem you’re having. And if it feels right, do it again soon. Letting a mentoring relationship grow naturally is a lot more comfortable for everyone than going around advertising that you’re looking for a mentor. Think of it this way: would you ask someone to be your girlfriend/boyfriend on the first date?

4. Be yourself. Just because someone else took a certain path doesn’t mean you have to. But there are still probably some things you can learn from their story.

5. Don’t forget to reciprocate. Listen to their problems and goals. Even if you have less experience, that doesn’t mean you can’t help them talk it out. Maybe you’ll bring a fresh perspective.

6. The best relationships grow over time. Don’t feel rushed to establish that you “have a mentor.” Never stop seeking out people you can learn from, and someday you’ll look back and realize you had one—or several—all along.

Enjoy what you read? Check out:

Common mistakes to avoid in your next IT job interview (Part One)

Common mistakes to avoid in your next IT job interview (Part Two)

What is talent matchmaking?

As part of TEKsystems’ public relations team, Vanessa Ulrich reads everything she can about the technology industry and emerging trends. Vanessa blogs about where technology and society collide, giving context and commentary to top news stories. You can reach her with questions and comments @TEK_PR via Twitter.

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