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Chapter 10. Finding a Mentor

The right mentor—an experienced, well-positioned professional with the contacts, willingness, and time to help you achieve your career goals—can be instrumental to networking and career success. Identifying, securing, and cultivating a mentor should be part of your strategic networking plan. Take these steps to help you find the ideal mentor for you:

  1. Schedule informational interviews. Create a target list of people in your industry or profession who have achieved the kind of career success you desire. Call each to schedule an informational interview. Explain that you are interested in developing a career in the same field and would appreciate any time the individual is willing to give.

  2. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn. Prepare for your meeting by compiling a list of questions. In what kind of work do you specialize? How long have you worked in your profession? What are the greatest challenges you faced early in your career? What advice would you give a fledgling professional? Stay away from questions the interviewee is likely to find inappropriate or too personal. Do not ask for client names or salary details. You are trying to make a contact, not an enemy.

  3. Develop your sales pitch. Before you meet, spend time thinking about your strengths and what you have to offer a mentor. Do not approach anyone until you can succinctly and persuasively answer the question: “Why should I take time to mentor you?”

  4. Listen actively for clues. During your informational interview, listen to the expert you have sought out. Do not waste time crafting a clever response when you should be listening.

  5. Be persistent. If the executive you have targeted is too busy to mentor you right now, create ways to stay in touch. Send news clippings and magazine articles of interest. Send an occasional “just checking in” e-mail. Once a quarter, ask if mentoring is now a possibility or if your target knows another experienced professional who might be willing to work with you.

  6. Know when to walk away gracefully. No matter how great your desire to work with an individual, if the mentor you have selected just isn’t interested, you must walk away gracefully.

  7. Seek a reputable mentoring program. Check with your local chamber of commerce and area business associations to see if they offer a mentoring program that will put you in contact with successful business people in your industry or community.

  8. Consider hiring a professional coach. As an alternative to a volunteer mentor, a professional coach can act as your mentor/networking guide/career counselor all rolled into one. To locate a professional coach, start by visiting the International Coach Federation at www.coachfederation.org, or the National Speakers Association at www.nsaspeaker.org.



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