How do I find a mentor? And how will I know if they are right for me?
Having a mentor can be a rewarding experience that can give your career development a turbo-boost by helping you understand or identify your career goals; by growing your network through effective introductions; and providing you with advice in challenging times. But the benefits of having a mentor are second to making sure your mentor is the right one for you, so that the relationship can be mutually beneficial.
First, it’s not necessary that you know exactly what you want to do in life before you search for a mentor. Especially if you aren’t sure what your career goals are, you can try seeking mentorship on how you can make this decision. Look for individuals who have diverse, winding career paths. Speak with several individuals who have taken different career paths to determine what resonates with you.
Second, make sure your mentor shares your values. For example, if you value independence and creativity and have an eye on entrepreneurship, a mentor who has had a lifetime career at a massive organization may value stability and structure differently than you do. Or, if you are interested in R&D or academic work, try to find someone who sees value in graduate education. If you’re a member of a minority group within engineering, it may be helpful to find someone who understands your point of view from a firsthand perspective.
Third, mentorship is a constantly evolving relationship. You may seek out different mentors for different purposes at various times of your life. For example, you may need one type of mentor or multiple mentors when deciding on a career path. Once you’ve entered your field, however, you may find it helpful to seek a mentor with experience in that field.
You’ll know you’ve found a mentor who is a good match when you feel comfortable enough to share thoughts and ideas you’re unsure about, and when you’re receiving actionable feedback that you can easily understand and integrate into your life.
Where can you find these people? You can ask your superiors, find people on social media platforms, or attend conferences or networking events where you may run into potential mentors. Don’t be afraid to ask them directly for mentorship or career advice, and don’t be too disappointed if they say no. Not every mentor is right for every mentee, and it is important to not be discouraged if someone turns you down. Try again with another person!
Go forth and be mentored!
SWE offers some great mentoring tools. Please see: https://swe.org/membership/mentoring
If you’re a collegian or young professional seeking advice on a personal or professional issue, please submit your question here: https://bit.ly/3ffqNTu.
Be on the lookout for an upcoming “Ask Alice” in the Voices and Views section of SWE Magazine.