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How do I find a mentor and What should I look for in a mentor?

I will be starting college soon, and I’m really freaking out because I feel don’t have a clear idea on what career path I want to take. I feel like I need someone to help and guide me throughout my college years.


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Subject: Career question for you


3 answers

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Kim’s Answer


Before addressing what makes a good mentor, I want to address what makes a good "mentee." Please be respectful of your mentor's time. I have been mentoring a young lady for about three years. She found me through LinkedIn, she had just finished Paralegal schooling, and was embarking on her career. I have enjoyed mentoring her, because she listens! Conversely, many other people have approached me for help, but when they failed to implement even basic grammar corrections on their resumes, I decided not to give them any further help.

I think it would be helpful if you had a general idea of what direction you are going in. You don't want a Biologist mentoring you to be an Accountant! It may be too early to get a mentor, and you might do better using the career services office at school to sort through your uncertainties.

I recently returned to school, and, through a professional organization, and, based on my interests, was assigned to a mentor. This individual had too many things she was involved in, and was not truly available to me. She would dutifully check on me once a month, but was not available if needed at any other time.

So, your mentor needs to be available, (e-mail relationships are fine!), and needs to care. She needs to guide you in helping you to think things through and make your own decisions, rather than telling you what to do. She needs to accept these decisions even if they are not the ones she would have made! However, she needs to not treat you with "kid gloves." You are entering the grown-up world, and not everything is going to be handled in a super-gentle way.

As an example, the lady I mentor was about to turn down a job offer and stay in her current position. I reminded her of why she had applied for the job, and she realized, before it was too late, that taking it would be the right thing to do. I could have just said, "yeah, I understand. . . " You want brutal honesty, but not someone who is going to deflate your self-esteem!

As to where to find a mentor? Professional organizations, LinkedIn, church, school (not just faculty, there are also great support staff!), etc. Try to pick someone who is established in their business, but don't go for the top person in the company. Perhaps target the position you could see yourself in 2-5 years after graduation.

Hope some of this helps!


Thank you comment icon Thank you very much! I will be looking for a mentor after my first year of college. Hopefully by then I would have a better idea on what career path I want to take. Also, I will surely take advantage of the resources that will be available to me at my school and definitely network with people. Kemi
Thank you comment icon Feel free to come back to this site as often as need be as you try to sort through it all. . . there's a wealth of information here! Do you have a general idea of what you want, or, at least, what you don't want? Kim Igleheart
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Sheila’s Answer

Hi Kemi:

This is a great question. It's awesome that you are thinking about mentors early on your journey. You've received some good comments from Kim and others. I'd like to share a few items for your consideration.

A mentorship is a mutually beneficial professional relationship in which an experienced individual (the mentor) imparts knowledge, expertise and wisdom to a less experienced person (the mentee), while simultaneously honing their mentoring skills.

• Define what you want out of your career and what you need to learn to get there.
• Approach a mentor relationship as if it's a business friendship – be casual and friendly, and try not to ask weird questions like, "Will you be my mentor?"
• Start with your own professional network. We often already have mentors who provide advice in various ways, and all it takes is a little effort from us to grow that connection into an ongoing relationship. Best of luck to you!

Sheila recommends the following next steps:
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Kabeer’s Answer

I believe we should have a mentor or a coach at different stages of your life... You can decide on what exactly you are looking for based on your expectation. Personally i prefer a coach so that he/she can ask the right questions, connect me to the right people and probe my thinking in the right direction. A mentor will focus more direct guidance into what you want to achieve. I believe the only way to find the right mentor is by talking to different people when you talk to different people you will have know who you connect with the best and you pursue from there...