Student Post: How to Find a Great Mentor
By Malik Henry
Delaware State University, Class of 2020
In the professional world, it helps to have a mentor in your corner to help you achieve your professional and personal goals. As mentorship becomes increasingly popular, people are finding mentors of all types, ranging from peer mentors to company-assigned mentors. If you can connect with a good mentor, then you will benefit tremendously from the relationship.
More and more companies are assigning mentors to interns because they know the value of having someone to help a new hire navigate a new company. I’m an intern at Nike, and Nike is one of those companies that believes in pairing interns with managers. I am fortunate to have a Nike mentor who helps me be a successful intern.
Especially with a remote internship or job, having a mentor is paramount to your success. Since we’re not in the office to meet and network with people, Nike has made a grand effort to have mentors and recruiters do introductions on interns’ behalf if they want to connect with someone at the company. It is hard to connect with someone through email or a call when there is no common ground. But intern or not, now is the best time to try to network with individuals. Since hardly anyone is in an office, many people miss interacting with others and want to chat with new people they haven’t met in the company.
While Nike didn’t explain the mentorship selection process, I assume selections were based on individuals working outside of each intern’s department to allow us to connect with someone new. My mentor is intern-centric, so she will adjust her approach to fit my style instead of vice versa. This allows her to tailor discussions and opportunities to my goals and needs. My mentor does not only want to see me be successful in my current role but is just as excited for me to pursue potential other roles—even if they’re outside my current department. It is comforting to have a mentor to talk to about potential growth or lateral opportunities without worrying about offending your current manager or department.
As a remote intern, it is especially helpful to have a mentor because the element of shadowing others is gone, so having that additional insight is key. When you’re working remotely, it is more common for the company-assigned mentor relationship to start off with a professional focus. But as time goes on, it has the potential to progress personally as well. And it’s especially useful if you envision a long-term career with the company. Your mentor can help you network, gain additional perspectives, and prepare for the adversity that awaits along with your progression.
I value my Nike mentor highly, but I definitely value my college mentor just as much. This is a relationship that took years, and we constantly build upon it. It is great to have multiple mentors you can go to for different reasons. My relationship with my college mentor developed organically and blossomed over time. This mentor is not only there for me professionally but emotionally and spiritually, too. Those are things that you may not want to bring to the workplace because people have different views, and you don’t want to be offensive (or get offended) in any way. My college mentor is more involved in my overall professional career in comparison to just my Nike career. Having multiple mentors to help eliminate bias is key for developing yourself to be as successful as possible.
Over my years of learning and development in the professional world, I have realized that finding the perfect mentor is like finding the perfect career. There will be some trial and error, but once you find the right one, you just know it. Here are some things to consider as you look for a mentor and develop the best possible relationship.
Deciding factors of a good mentor
- Decide what type of mentorship relationship you are seeking. Do you only want a professional mentor, or do you want a life coach, a father/mother figure, or something else? Make this clear to your mentor so that they can set expectations as well.
- Figure out your goals and aspirations, and then search for people who are working towards achieving similar goals or have accomplished them already.
- Arguably the most important part is choosing mentors who align with your morals. If your morals are not aligned, then your mentor won’t be effective for you.
Connecting with your mentor
- Not everyone that you’d love to have as a mentor will want to be your mentor. You won’t connect amazingly with everybody, so don’t be hard on yourself if that person isn’t looking for a mentee or isn’t the right fit for you.
- Avoid the cliché questions for mentors; instead, try to come up with thought-provoking questions that are more tailored to your situation. Brainstorm questions that demonstrate how the mentor stays motivated, how they’ve worked towards their ultimate purpose in life, and scenario-based questions that show how they respond in certain situations.
- Having a mentor is a relationship, so that means it is not one-sided. Mentors are also looking to gain something from this relationship. Encourage your mentor to share how you can help them with your unique perspective. Having a balanced relationship will help you in the future to become a good mentor yourself.
Trouble finding a mentor
- Social media is becoming the number one way outside of work relationships to seek and develop mentor relationships. Many individuals are looking to pass on their knowledge and help in any way they can during this difficult time.
- If you can’t find someone to take on the mentor title, then try asking various individuals the questions you would ask a mentor. You’d be surprised how people will naturally become a mentor this way.
- If all else fails, then the two greatest mentors are experience and research. You learn the most from experiences because you actually lived them, and nobody else will ever be in that exact same situation. Additionally, the internet is a great place to do research and learn from other experiences. Successful people are continuously writing books and articles and producing blogs/podcasts to share their stories and advice.
Don’t undervalue the ability of a mentor to take you to higher heights. Find a great mentor or continue to develop your relationship with a current mentor, and it will allow you to flourish. If you don’t have a mentor, just know there are resources out there for you to succeed anyway. And be sure to always pass on your knowledge. You may be searching for a mentor now, but someday, you can take on a mentor role yourself.