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Why you need a mentor — and how to find one.

It’s common advice to recent graduates and young professionals: find a mentor. And there’s good reason for this recommendation. Mentors can open minds, provide inspiration, point out blind spots and offer encouragement when you’re stuck. But mentoring shouldn’t be limited to the youngest professionals. People in every stage of their career can benefit from a strong mentor.

Regardless of your career stage, aligning yourself with the right mentor can effectively strengthen your growth on both a personal and professional level. Great mentors share some invaluable attributes, like being vested in your success, having your best interests in mind and being supportive of who you are. Like a close colleague or friend, a mentor doesn’t compete with you, but instead complements you.

We need others to help us develop, progress and achieve. Whether you’re squarely in the c-suite or climbing the corporate ladder, explore why you need a mentor and what to consider as you search for one.

Why you need a mentor.

Mentors challenge you to push farther.

A strong mentor won’t let you settle for mediocracy or remain inside your comfortable cocoon. Instead, they’ll ignite your ambition, motivating you to continuously climb higher. Not only will they be there to cheer on your successes, but they’ll serve as a guide during hardships and failures, ensuring you extract valuable lessons from your losses.

Mentors can share indispensable work and life lessons.

Great mentors use past experiences and storytelling as a way to help you envision all possibilities. Both their words and actions speak volumes. Strong mentors believe in your potential and are committed to making your vision a reality. Similarly, they know the importance of working smarter (not harder) and will show you how to leverage change, relationships, strategies, best practices and opportunities.

They can offer an objective perspective.

It can be challenging to see beyond your sphere of influence on your own. Mentors can bring fresh insights and ideas to the table, serving as a sounding board and helping you consider perspectives you may not have on your radar. They can help you navigate just beyond your reach and provide a fresh point of view when you’re facing a challenge. Mentors can offer wisdom and advice to shelter you from unwanted missteps.

What to consider when looking for a mentor.

Even in today’s remote landscape, with networking events and large gatherings either canceled or pivoted to a digital format, there are still plenty of opportunities to connect with and find a mentor. While our physical routines may be on hold, you can leverage your professional network via platforms like LinkedIn or connect via email with someone in your department or field. Psychological support, engagement, ability to build resiliency and understanding of alternate ways to thrive are all critical during times of fear and uncertainty.

What matters most when you’re looking for a mentor? Here’s what to consider.

Level of compatibility.

Finding a like-minded mentor to challenge you is critical for receiving optimal guidance and ultimately excel as a mentee. However, if their values, working style or personality don’t align with yours, you may get some helpful advice, but it won’t be a fruitful partnership.

Proactive and supportive.

For the mentor-mentee relationship to be successful, both parties need to dedicate time and energy toward connecting. If it’s one-sided and not collaborative, you run the risk of feeling frustrated. Remember, the ideal mentor for you may not be the top dog or have the fanciest title. A CEO or startup founder may not have space in their schedule for a new connection, so look for a mentor who has capacity to visit with you regularly.

Skills and expertise.

What do you envision for your career? What are your short and long-term goals? You’ll want to connect with someone who brings expertise in the areas you’d like to grow. You can tap into their experiences when it comes to best practices. Plus, you can leverage their network when you look for your next professional challenge.

Authenticity in success and failure.

Rarely are the most impactful mentors perfect. They’ve made mistakes and failed — and if they’re willing to share authentically, you can learn from how they’ve overcome obstacles. No career is always smooth sailing, and you want to join forces with someone who is willing to share where they’ve stumbled and how they found their footing again. These lessons have potential to shape you the most.

Great mentors can make a lasting impact on you. When you find a mentor who is genuinely invested in your success, the stage is set for big growth in any season of your career.

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