A mentor is a person that another person can look up to, and is usually seen as a trusted counselor or guide. He or she is usually an older, more experienced individual who helps someone else in his or her personal or professional development. Although these people can be sought in a variety of social or professional capacities, they are perhaps most commonly found in a work environment. Often, finding a good mentor is a matter of thinking carefully about the people in your life who you look up to and want to be like, and then speaking to one of those people about ways to make the relationship a little more formal.
Some people start developing relationships with a mentor early in life, such as through the Big Brother and Big Sister programs. In these cases, children are mentored in social and academic settings; usually these programs are for “at risk” children, but any child can benefit from this experience.
Finding a good mentor can be as easy as looking to a boss or a trusted colleague at work or church. Sometimes, one can be found through a professional or trade organization, although it is often easier to develop a relationship with someone you already know, because you have probably seen that person in action. Think about the people you know and work with and what types of skills or insights they could help you learn. Perhaps you are looking for an adviser with experience in your area of work, or an older parent to guide you as you raise your young children. This person might be more of a listener as you bounce ideas off him or her about life, work, and personal goals.
When looking for a mentor, consider first what exactly it is you want from a mentoring relationship. Think about your personality style and what type of person will complement and benefit you best. Consider talking to friends and colleagues about their mentors, or ask if they know anyone who might be a good fit for you. Remember that, sometimes, this person might be someone you see and work with every day; keep an open mind and consider every possibility.
Next, think about the people who you looked up to in the past, perhaps a teacher or supervisor who was especially helpful to you. Learn to identify the type of person who works best with your goals and needs. Have a clear picture of what you want from the mentoring relationship and communicate this clearly to your potential adviser. This will avoid any future confusion about the purpose and expectations of the relationship.
You may also need to be assertive. Sometimes, a relationship happens naturally, but usually, people must take a deliberate course of action to find a mentor. Don’t be afraid to ask.