5 Ways to Find a Mentor (That Don’t Feel Totally Awkward)
All you’re looking for is a bit of career guidance—aka a special someone who can spew wisdom and advice as you map out your path to world domination a promotion/raise/career change. But finding a mentor can be tough. Here, five totally natural ways to seek one out.
Join a Professional Organization
A quick Google search (“networking group” + “data scientists” + “Boston”) is all it takes to access a range of professional groups that exist in the city or town you live. Bite the bullet and go solo to a happy hour or panel discussion, then make it a goal to swap business cards with one or two new faces in the room. Sure, you’ll have to weed through the masses to find someone you click with (and who has a career trajectory you admire), but sooner or later a potential match is bound to pop up.
But Don't Put a Total Stranger on the Spot
Sure, you just introduced yourself to Cathy who has a big-deal tech job and—in your opinion—would be a dream as a mentor. Still, hold back until you’ve had a chance to court her a bit. Flat out asking her to be your mentor on the spot can come across as pushy or, worse, desperate. A better plan of attack: Follow up with her after the networking event with a simple email and coffee-meeting request. (Mentorship 101: You don’t always have to say the words “Will you be my mentor?”)
Focus on the Person, Not The Position
We get it: Cathy is a head honcho, and you just scored her business card. Nice work! But if she’s so busy, she never responds to a single email or is pretty brusque with her career advice, she may not have the time (or nurturing attitude) to champion your professional future. Don’t get us wrong: You should definitely seek out a mentor with a stellar résumé and quality expertise to share—just be sure she’s available to meet up and that you feel a conversation spark.
Don’t Forget About Your Colleagues
Yep, it can feel icky to discuss your future career plans at work, but don’t discount a coworker-turned-confidante that you can go to, not just for help navigating tricky work situations, but to bat career-related ideas back and forth. (Hey, it’s all about the cone of silence.) On the flip side, you also shouldn’t discount the mentor potential of colleagues past and future. For example, your first boss or a coworker who recently moved on whose work you always admired.
Remember, A Mentor Isn’t Always Your Clone
You don’t have to share a job title to find a mentor that’s right for you. Again, it’s more about connecting with someone who’s experienced career success and is willing to take a vested interest in yours. Because think about it: Navigating office politics and conversations about promotions can be pretty standard from field to field. Don’t write someone off just because her résumé isn’t a replica of yours.