As many of us in leadership roles look back through our career we have had someone to help, or rather guide us along the path. It’s no surprise that at least 75% of executives have said that mentoring has been vital in their career development. In my career, I’ve had mentors that have not just helped me on my current path but have redirected me toward the path that would enhance my skill set and broaden my opportunities.

Mentorship is a symbiotic relationship that helps all parties grow both personally and professionally. Here are a few reasons why having a great mentor is so crucial. 

      • They provide a wealth of information. Connecting with another professional in your industry gives you a key to what you need to know. Having a mentor that can tell you what you need to know when you’re starting out gets you up to speed faster and lessens the learning curve.
      • They see what you can’t see. Mentors provide honesty when it’s needed the most and help you to recognize areas where you need to grow. Having someone point out areas where you might be lacking sets you on a path for improvement. It’s always good to have people in your life that will boost your ego. However, in the business world, constructive criticism is the most efficient way to improve personally and professionally. 
      • They offer encouragement. Let’s face it. When you’re starting as a young professional, it can be overwhelming and defeating. There’s a good chance you won’t get that first job you wanted or have a successful first business pitch. Mentors step in to help you see the brighter side of situations and the light at the end of the tunnel. They give you the encouragement you need to keep going, even when you feel like giving up. 
      • They are trusted advisors. When you’re new to the industry, it’s challenging to figure out who you can really trust. Mentors act as a third party and will give you an honest opinion without an ulterior motive at play. They can also act as a great sounding board for all of your ideas. You and your mentor will quickly be able to figure out which of your business ideas have legs and get rid of the ones that don’t. 
      • They help you learn. There’s no better way to directly learn about something than from someone who’s already been through similar experiences. Mentors take the time to tell you about the mistakes they made so you can learn from them. 

So you might be asking yourself, how do I find a mentor? It is unrealistic to think that exceptional leaders are sitting by the phone or standing behind the door waiting to share their knowledge, guidance, and network with you. You haven’t taken a passive approach to your career so you shouldn’t take a passive approach to find a mentor.

Engaging someone that embodies the leadership qualities that you aspire to, takes initiative. When looking for a mentor think about these four objectives:

      • identify a successful leader
      • communicate your intentions
      • establish clear objectives
      • nurture the relationship

Once you have found your mentor leave yourself open to feedback, be honest with your feelings, and positive as you take the next steps in your growth and development.