Welcome to CB’s work-advice column featuring Emily Durham, a Toronto-based senior recruiter at Intuit, public speaker and content creator known for her funny and relatable TikToks about all things work. Each month, Durham will answer reader questions on topics that affect our ability to thrive in our jobs, and she’ll offer her real-world insights on how to handle even the most rock-and-a-hard-place conundrums. Have a work-related question? Send it to email@example.com.
Q: I’ve been working for about 10 years, and could really benefit from a mentor to help me take my career to the next level. I’d love to bounce ideas off someone in my industry, and be able to turn to them for professional advice. I’ve heard a lot about mentorship opportunities for people who are starting out in their careers, but I don’t really know how to find a mentor now that I’m more advanced in my career. Where should I start?
You aren’t alone—many of us want mentorship, but aren’t sure where to find it. In fact 76 per cent of people think having a mentor is important, but only 37 per cent actually have one. It’s no secret that mentorship can fast track our personal and professional growth with candid advice, outside perspective and access to opportunities.
The first step in finding a mentor is understanding what kind of relationship you’re looking for. Do you want someone who is highly analytical to support you in developing your critical thinking skills? Someone who has a creative mind, to push you to think big? Or an industry pro who is currently working in your dream job? There are no wrong answers, but the more specific you are about what you want, the more strategic you can be in your mentor search.
How to find a mentor
So, where can you meet a potential mentor? Like most relationships, finding the right person doesn’t always happen by accident, and might take a little bit of work.
Start by looking around at your current place of work, where you are likely to be surrounded with like-minded professionals. Referring back to what you’re looking for in a mentor, is there someone who might fit the bill? As we continue to return to in-person events, another place to meet potential mentors is industry networking sessions or seminars. Not only are these events an amazing way to expand your network, but oftentimes organic IRL conversations lead to something more.
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But my personal favourite place to meet mentors just so happens to be on my couch. Yes, you read that right. The whole purpose of social media is to foster connections! Use LinkedIn or Instagram to identify professionals to reach out to. Send a quick note outlining who you are and what you do, and ask for a quick coffee chat to learn more about their career. I identified one of my mentors on LinkedIn and sent a cold InMail message requesting a 30 minute conversation to learn more about her career. That phone call morphed into a five-year relationship that has fundamentally impacted my career.
Maintaining a mentorship relationship
Once you meet someone that sparks your interest, what should you do next? How do you make it official? The first step in building a mentor-mentee relationship is that initial conversation. Book a half-hour, and focus on learning more about the individual’s career to make sure they are the right fit for you. As the person who initiated the meeting, it is your role to develop an agenda for the conversation. It needn’t be overly structured or formal, but it’s important that you have a set of questions lined up. Some of the best topics to inquire about are their career journey, their biggest learnings in their role and how they have overcome obstacles.
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Check in with yourself after the chat. Is this someone you want to learn from in the future? If so, reach out to them via email and ask if they are open to connecting every four to eight weeks to support you in your career journey. After your first few meetings, the conversation will flow more naturally, and you may find you no longer need an agenda.
Mentorship really is as simple as putting yourself out there, and being thoughtful about the people and conversations you make time for. With a bit of work, and a lot of consistency, your future self will thank you for investing in mentorship.