An All-in-One Guide to Finding a Mentor

Written by Rebecca Fraser-Thill Business man shows success abstract flow chart

What's all this hype about having a mentor?

Today we'll break it down, one question at a time.

Why Bother?

First, the obvious question:  is the "mentor search" worth the energy? In a word, yes.

People who have mentors tend to get salary increases and promotions faster than workers who don't have mentors. Graduate students in psychology report that peers who have mentors meet more influential people, move faster through the program, have a better sense of direction, and present at national conferences more often.

Although men seem to benefit from mentorship more than women do, women are in greater need of mentors because they still occupy fewer high level positions. It's a shame, then, that Levo League found 95% of Gen Y women have never looked for a mentor.

What Type of Person Isn't a Good Mentor?

Overstretched people make the worst mentors.

They may seem like they have it all - family, career, local fame - and you want to know how they do it. Since they have so much going on, though, they probably don't have the time to give you the mentoring relationship you need.

For instance, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, may seem like an interesting mentor given her high-profile career/family juggling, but with all she's got going on, how much time for mentoring does she actually have?

Who Makes a Good Mentor?

On the flipside, the best mentor may be someone who is just a few years or levels ahead of you in the industry.

You might think they don’t know “enough” but in fact they're more attuned to your needs because they just went through what you're facing. Plus, they usually have more time than more senior colleagues to devote to you.

For instance, the guy who is a late draft pick to the Patriots shouldn’t look to Tom Brady for mentoring, but rather to the guy who rode the bench "well" last season.

What Can I Expect of a Mentor?

Let's start with what NOT to expect:  weekly meetings. Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, writes about this in a chapter on mentorship in Lean In:

“That’s not a mentor, that’s a therapist.”

Instead, use your occasional time with your mentor to problem solve. Come in with a clear and specific issue you want to address and ask your mentor to help come up with possible solutions.

Also, keep in mind that you can get great problem-solving help from one-off mentors, which Jenny discusses in her post The Best Way to Thank a Mentor.

Where Can I Find a Mentor?

Look local. Often your best mentor is right in your existing network, or directly adjacent to it.

He or she may even be a relationship you’ve already built – a teacher, former boss, colleague – but that you just need to re-invigorate and label “mentor” in your own mind.

How Should I Approach a Mentor?

Don’t ever ASK for a “mentor.” Just start building a relationship!

Sheryl Sandberg writes that being asked to be someone's mentor is her big pet peeve:

“If someone has to ask the question ‘Are you my mentor?’ the answer is probably no.”

There are 3 ways to approach a mentor, depending on your situation:

  • If you're looking for an internship, ask up front whether the position will set up a mentorship for you. If not, you might look elsewhere for a better internship, or else actively negotiate the inclusion of a mentor.
  • If you're looking for a mentor in your workplace, make an effort to stop by and chat with the individual once in a while (in an unobtrusive way!) and perhaps to invite him or her to coffee or lunch - when you have a specific problem in mind that you need advice about.
  • If you're looking to change careers and want to find a mentor in another industry, informational interviewing is a good first step.

How Can I Retain a Mentor?

Once you have a mentor, how can you keep him or her active in your life? Three pieces of advice:

1.  Be your best! In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg cites research showing that mentors select mentees based on "performance and potential." This leads her to the following advice:

“Excel and you will get a mentor”

2.  Be open to feedback! If you won’t listen, a mentor will not keep working with you.

3.  Don't complain! You don't want your mentor to feel like seeing you is a drag. It's one thing to ask for advice, it's another to rehash every awful piece of workplace politics. Stay positive and you'll have a mentor who isn't just putting up with you, but who looks forward to assisting you for the long haul.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below: Do you have a mentor? If so, how did you find him or her? If not, how do you think having one might help you?

Photo Credit: ffaalumni

Fraser-Thill_squareAbout Rebecca

Rebecca Fraser-Thill is the founder of Working Self, a site that helps twentysomethings create meaningful work - that actually pays the bills!She teaches psychology at Bates College and is one half of the Life After College coaching team. Follow her @WorkingSelf.

Time to Revolutionize Your Leadership Style (+ Giveaways!)

Written by Marisol Dahl

Time for Leadership
Time for Leadership

As Willy Wonka once said, “Time is a precious thing. Never waste it.” 

But this is so much easier said than done, right? In a world of endless distractions and never-ending to-do lists, how do we harness the time, energy and leadership skills to attain the results we really want?

Pierre Khawand’s new book Time for Leadership: The Accomplishing More in Less Time, Less Effort, and Less Stress Leadership Journey is all about looking at leadership in a totally revolutionized way. Khawand recognizes the recent paradigm shift in the concept of leadership and what that means for you and your career.

Leadership is no longer considered something you are simply born with--your leadership skills can grow and develop with experience and sincere effort. Leadership is also not just for those on top. It is needed at all levels, whether you’re the CEO, a front-line employee, or somewhere in between. Finally, this new age of leadership requires a healthy balance of leading and following, knowing when to step up to the plate or when to back down and let others take the wheel.

Khawand and his company People-OntheGo are devoted to helping people use time efficiently, take control of the technological world and tap into their leadership potential. Time for Leadership compiles all the new game-changing models from some of the top minds in leadership. Khawand’s approach is all about having leadership “broken down into digestible and practical behaviors” that we can implement immediately and effectively in our daily lives.

Some quotes that really got me revved up:

On focusing on strengths:

When we focus on people’s strengths, they gain confidence, they get engaged, and they produce great outcomes, and in doing so, they are more likely to overcome their weaknesses.

On deltas and weak links:

80% of our results come from 20% of our effort.

Most of what we accomplish comes from certain activities that are closely connected to our desired results. The link between these activities and these results is strong. We refer to these activities as Deltas. And many of the other activities that we perform don’t generate much result. The link between these activities and the desired results is weak. We refer to these activities as Weak Links.

Before engaging in any activity, gigantic or minuscule, ask the leadership question: Is this activity a Delta or a Weak Link? This is the leadership mindset.

On creativity, in Daniel Guillory’s chapter:

To be truly creative, be prepared to have a thick skin. The reason for this goes to Picasso’s famous quote, “Creativity is first of all an act of destruction.” A creative act changes the way we do or view something--and by definition, most human beings do not embrace change.

The ability to be truly creative in an area is directly proportional to the extent of your base of knowledge about that area. For example, the creative jump that my seven-year-old son can make in terms of his paintings would not compare to the kind of creative jump that someone like Claude Monet could make, who studied for years and years.


We are so excited to be giving away a copy of Time for Leadership by Pierre Khawand as well as a free seat in People-OntheGo’s upcoming program the Accomplishing More Leadership Program to five lucky Life After College readers!

To enter to win answer the following question in the comments by Friday, April 18th. We will pick winners via Random.org and email to let you know!

Comment to be Entered to Win:

How do you demonstrate leadership in your own everyday life?

About Marisol Dahl

Marisol is currently a Sociology and Education Studies major at Yale University. A longtime New Yorker, she is interested in pursuing a career in education and child advocacy. Marisol started her blog in 2011 as a way to document her college years and beyond. When not running around campus and catching up with her school reading, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading dystopian fiction and volunteering in her community. She can be reached on Twitter at @marisoldahl.