By Amber Alarid, JVA Consulting
Lately I have been seeing article after article, blog after blog and hearing personal story after story about the value of a professional mentor. For young professionals and/or anyone new to the nonprofit sector, a mentor can provide you with consistent and authentic guidance to help you achieve your professional goals. If you decide to seek out a professional mentor, here are some tips to find the right person and maximize the potential of this relationship.
Tap into local groups that have established mentoring programs
If you are a student, research your university or college to see if it has a mentoring program. Locating a mentor through your school will help you find committed and successful mentors outside your usual network. Some school-based mentoring programs involve ongoing leadership development and programming, while others are one-time events that help connect you with a local mentor. Even if your university does not have a formal program, it may be able to put you in contact with a nearby program or person.
Check with young alumni groups that may already have mentoring programs or might have the resources to begin one if there is enough interest. Use listservs and LinkedIn pages to ask fellow young professionals for help in finding or starting a program.
There are also a number of mentoring groups associated with particular demographics, such as the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce. Check in with your local chamber of commerce to see if they offer an appropriate program for you.
Put out the word that you’re looking for a mentor
An article on Forbes.com suggests reaching out to all of your personal and professional networks to find a mentor. Explain what you are looking to learn from the experience and cast a wide net by tapping into LinkedIn, family, friends, coworkers and anyone else you run into. Letting a large number of people know you’re looking for a mentor increases your odds of finding the right fit for you and it lets people know that you are serious about professional development.
Devise clear goals and outcomes
Before beginning the actual mentoring process, you should establish a list of goals for your career, how you would like your mentor to help you achieve those goals (helping to expand your network, sharing helpful training opportunities and resources he or she uses, etc.) and what you are looking for in a mentor. Check out this great article on Careercast.com to help get your wheels turning. It includes a list of attributes a mentor should have, such as being respected in the community.
Mentors in your field can help you to find new and exciting growth opportunities, serve as excellent references and offer you concrete advice from the perspective of someone who has been in your shoes. Be sure to share your goals with your mentor from the start to establish an action plan that meets your needs.
If you have a professional mentor or have served as a mentor for a young professional, what is your best advice to young professionals on how to find and use mentors?