As someone who is starting a new career or advancing in one, graduating from college and entering the workforce or taking a leap as a first-time entrepreneur, you may have been told to seek out a mentor to gain knowledge and support growth. Unfortunately, mentorship is not a relationship that is simply assigned, such as a teacher in school or a direct manager at work. In this article, we’ll discuss how to pursue mentorship, how it can be a beneficial tool for you and the pitfalls to avoid when seeking guidance.

We tend to associate mentorship with careers and the working world, but mentorship can apply to many instances in life. Mentorship is a wonderful way to cultivate any skill or knowledge. It is a valuable tool to learn from advisement by means of another’s experiences and mistakes. Learning through mentorship is best described by Benjamin Franklin’s statement, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Mentorship is not a directive and it’s not a short-lived lesson you will be tested on for a grade. Mentorship is a lasting, guided experience if you’ll allow it.

Things to keep in mind when seeking a mentor:

Be Specific About Your Goals

A common mistake people make when pursuing a mentor is not knowing what they need help with. It’s true that many begin with total bewilderment and just want general guidance. Though general guidance is obviously a part of the mentoring process, you should also be working toward a certain milestone or goal. Come to your mentor with a focus on an accomplishment they can guide you through. After reaching this milestone, no matter how small, the next goal can be determined and so on. Looking to a mentor for guidance with your issues allows development of improved thought processes. Being open-minded to think outside of your usual train of logic helps overcome cognitive biases that you never knew were there. Understanding how another person approaches the same issue will only broaden the potential of coming up with a great solution.

Find Someone Who is Not Entirely Like You

The purpose of a mentor is to uncover your blind spots and learn something you never knew would be worth your while. Seeking a mentor with a similar background, worldview, field, or even similar characteristics may end up impeding your progress. Have no fear, you can have more than one mentor. There are really no rules when it comes to mentorship, only best practices. Just like any toolbox, you’ll likely want more than just a hammer. Same thing with mentorship. Once you determine areas of opportunities for yourself, find those who can help you in different capacities.

Make the Ask When It’s Appropriate

Try not to rush into a mentorship. You may be an entry level employee that is super excited to start your career, but it’s not the best route to seek out the CEO as your mentor your first week on the job. People may not appreciate an offer to be a mentor when it’s not brought upon organically. Try your best to get to know your colleagues, leadership, and network before committing to approach someone for mentorship. Make a list of individuals in your network that you think would be a good fit or would be willing to vouch for you with one of their contacts. Be direct when asking around your network of what you’re looking for. “I want to learn a, b, and c and reach goals x, y, and z. Do you know anyone that can point me in the right direction?” You will get what you put in, so put forth extra effort in finding the right mentors will help.

Mentorship is a Two-Way Relationship

For any relationship to thrive, those involved must nurture it. As I said earlier, you will usually get what you put in. Since you have reached out for guidance, it is important to be courteous and respectful of your mentor’s time. When meeting, be direct and have a plan. And, follow their advice. It will be a short-lived relationship if your mentor gives you steps to take, and you “forget” or in some other way blow off your tasks. Follow up with your mentors on how their advice has helped or not helped you with solutions or general growth. Ensuring open communication from both parties helps improve mentorship strategy as the relationship progresses.

A mentor should be someone you can trust with your honest opinions and someone you won’t mind receiving some tough love from. Having a mentor shows that you are motivated to succeed.

Through features on the pepelwerk app, you will find opportunities to connect with those that will provide encouragement and guidance to help reach your goals.

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