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Ask The Experts: How Do I Find A Mentor?

A reader is searching for the Jack Donaghy to her Liz Lemon—Leadership coach Lolly Daskal brings her down to Earth.

[Photo: Ali Goldstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images]

Who doesn't want someone to help them navigate all the tricky moments in their career?

But finding the perfect mentor isn't as easy as just asking someone you admire to give you advice, is it? Leadership coach Lolly Daskal has the answer.

Hi,

I know it’s fictional, but I’ve always been jealous of the Jack Donaghy–Liz Lemon mentor–mentee relationship on 30 Rock. Seriously.

As Jack once said, "I don't choose my mentees lightly. They have to have the drive and ambition to be worth my time. The intelligence to understand the challenges they're going to face. The humility to accept my help. And finally, a life that is a bottomless swamp of chaos."

I can safely say I meet all of those requirements (to different degrees). I’m looking for someone who can guide me in my career—someone with industry experience, connections, and coaching ability.

How can I enlist a person like this?

Thanks for your help,
Liz Lemon Wannabee


Dear Wannabee,

Finding a mentor is hard, but finding a good one can change your life.

Mentorship goes far beyond giving advice; a mentor commits valuable time and focused attention to assure that you’re progressing toward your goals.

It helps that you have intelligence about your challenges, a sense of humor, and the humility to accept help.

It sounds like you’ve already done some of this, but for the record, the first steps begin with you:

Learn your strengths and weaknesses, what you want to learn, where you need to grow or be more motivated. The more you know about yourself going in, the better your odds of finding the right person.

Clarify your expectations. Identify and define what you expect from a mentor. The clearer your expectations, the more you can focus on what you need. Setting forth your expectations up front allows you to effectively manage your side of the relationship.

Once you know yourself and what you want from a mentor, you can begin your search. Some things to remember as you’re identifying and working with a mentor:

Personality matters. Not every mentor can be Jack Donaghy, but what kind of mentor would work best with your personality? You may choose someone who is an extrovert to your introvert, or someone who matches your personality.

Avoid controllers. Stay away from those who want to control and mold you. A mentor should be someone who wants to help you and watch you grow, not one who wants to mold and manipulate you.

Who are your role models? Look for someone who exemplifies the traits and skills that you want to adopt. Choose a mentor you truly respect and one who resonates with you.

Think beyond your bosses and professors. Your mentor doesn’t have to be from the same industry, gender, or generation. Keep an open mind and look to older family members or friends, neighbors, spiritual leaders, community leaders, the networks of your friends and colleagues.

You may also find possibilities in a professional association. You don’t want to feel uncomfortable with your mentor, so remember to choose one you can speak openly and honestly with. Liz and Jack aside, for many people that means their boss is not a candidate.

Making Time. When you’ve identified a prospective mentor, invite him or her to lunch or coffee on you, or arrange another way to get together informally. Explain the qualities you admire in the person and say that you’d like to meet periodically to learn from their experience and wisdom. Set up a loose structure for meetings and other communication, with the understanding that it may change as the relationship grows.

Remember it’s a two-way street. Right from the beginning, make your relationship reciprocal. Make it a point to create opportunities and provide help to your mentor, regardless of their success. Get to know their business and their personal goals. Listen and take note of their needs. Be the kind of person you want others to be to you.

Say please and thank you. Show gratitude and appreciation at all times, and never take your mentor for granted.

Pay it forward. Make yourself available, formally and informally, as a mentor to others. Share your lessons; teach from your experiences.

I hope you find the perfect person!

Wishing you much success,
Lolly


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