mentorsIn today’s tough career-minded world, it’s important to do everything you can to make the most out of each position you hold. You need to take all the right steps to meet your career goals, but often when you’re just getting started, you may not know what those steps are or how to get moving in the right direction. That’s why it’s so helpful to find a mentor who can meet with you along the way and provide guidance to help you excel in your career.

Who Makes a Great Mentor?

When you’re looking for a mentor, don’t look to your supervisors at work. These people interact with you on a regular basis and can help you move your career forward, but you want someone with an outside perspective to mentor you. This has the added advantage of letting you discuss difficult situations at work and get input on what you can do to work through them.

Look to your professional organization, family friends, and people you know in the field to find a good mentor. You want someone who holds a position that you look up to and who has been in the field for at least a few years so she has valuable experience to share. If you’re not sure of who to consider, ask friends and family members for recommendations of people they know.

Defining Mentoring Goals

Before even contacting a potential mentor, you need to determine what you plan to get out of the mentoring relationship and how you would like to go about doing that. For example, maybe you’re new to the business world and just want to learn how corporations usually work and what characteristics you should be developing to move up the ranks. You may be able to achieve this by meeting casually with a mentor once each month for lunch, asking some questions, and discussing your progress toward building the desired characteristics.

Approaching Your Potential Mentor

Businesspeople are often busy, so you want to clearly lay out to your potential mentor who you are, why you’re worth his time, and what exactly you’re asking of him. Depending on how well you know the potential mentor, a phone call, email, or business letter may be an appropriate way to ask. Give your potential mentor some time to consider your request before making a commitment.

Getting the Most Out of Your Mentoring Meetings

Do your homework before each meeting with your mentor to think of a few good questions to ask. In addition, brainstorm several examples of things that have happened at work since the last time you met so you can get your mentor’s input on these situations. You’re responsible for driving the conversation and preparation ensures that you make the most of every minute.

Meeting with a mentor can be an incredibly helpful way to get you one step closer to your career goals. Whether you meet just a few times or have an ongoing mentoring relationship that lasts several years, your mentor’s input can be a valuable influence in your professional life.