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How to Choose a Career Mentor

Finding a Mentor: How to Select the Right Role Model for You
There are multiple parts of navigating your career path; earning your degree may be an important component. Another path to consider is working with a career mentor.

Think of a mentor as an advisor: someone you trust who has experience in your field of interest and who can provide advice and support. Mentors could help you develop skills, expand your professional network and stay motivated to reach your goals.

But how do you pick someone who may have such an influential role in your professional life? We connected with Muqkadeen Poole, Strategic Education Mentorship Program lead, and Amanda Contino, program leader for Strayer’s Peer Mentorship Program, for tips on how to find a mentor.

Consider your holistic development
When choosing a mentor, you want someone who’ll be able to help you with career development – and your personal development, too. Of course, it’s important to get advice on the industry you’re interested in, but look for a mentor who can also help you sharpen soft skills like communication and confidence. 

Poole has seen mentees evolve and expand their confidence and says that direct feedback and guidance can help foster this change. “Through a mentor relationship, community, confidence and courage are three elements that provide a transformative experience for all those involved.” Poole also believes both intentionality and a growth mindset can help mentees gain additional skills to help foster their development. 

Look for someone who can be both a friend and a guide
It may seem obvious to say you should look for a mentor who’s a good person, but it’s true. You want to find a mentor who has experience in your field of interest. But finding a kind person who genuinely wants to help is equally important.

“A successful mentor is a great listener, is patient and respectful, and has the desire to give back and commit their time to sharing their personal experiences,” says Contino.

Poole adds that a mentor with the desire to help is something everyone can appreciate. “If we were to boil mentorship down, it’s really about having a friend who has your best interests in mind. Who wouldn’t want that?”

Begin your search with some of these resources
Whether through university, industry or personal connections, there are several places you can start your mentor search. It can take a few tries to find someone who’s right for you, and who has the time and ability to take on a mentorship role, so it’s a good idea to use all of your outlets.

If you’re lucky, you may find more than one mentor who’s a good match. This can give you more than one perspective for personal and professional development and a wider network of support to tap into. “Personally, I like to have a mentor for each specific area I want to develop in,” mentions Poole. To begin your search, consider working through these resources:

  • Friends and family. It’s not unheard of for someone to know someone who knows someone. Your personal connections may know you better and help you discover people who might be a good fit for you.
  • Student resources. Mentors can be peers too. Fellow students may have had experiences they could share. Current Strayer students can take advantage of Strayer’s peer-to-peer mentoring program.
  • Alumni associations. Check out Strayer’s Alumni Association, see who may be a good fit for you and what career paths they followed. Current students can also take advantage of this resource.
  • Professional associations. These are good for general career exploration and growth, but they can also be useful for finding mentorship leads.
  • Company mentor programs. Some companies now offer mentor programs. Check with your Human Resources department.

Make the most of your mentor/mentee relationship
To some degree, the qualities you want to look for are going to be specific to you. “I want to acknowledge success looks different for everyone,” mentions Poole. “Sometimes we may not be able to quantify what is gained in a mentor/mentee relationship.” Poole believes success can be determined through personal goals and feelings of trust with a mentor. Contino agrees and emphasizes that the relationship itself can determine success. 

“A successful peer mentoring relationship is a joint venture. Both the mentor and mentee must be willing to connect on a regular basis and be committed to developing a trusted relationship.”

Despite the subjective nature of success, there are several universal points to consider when approaching a mentor/mentee relationship. A good partnership:

  • Holds you accountable. A good mentor will push you to be your best.
  • Helps you recognize your potential. Sometimes we’re blind to our own best qualities, but a good mentor will identify them and help you figure out the best way to use those qualities.
  • Creates a safe space where you can share the good, the bad and the ugly. A good mentor will listen to you with an open mind and discuss the pros and cons of your career journey.
  • Engages in open, honest communication. A mentor should provide honest, constructive feedback and a mentee should ask for the support and criticism they need to grow. 

Working with a mentor can have intangible, yet powerful results. Finding the person who wants to help you pursue the best outcomes for your career opportunities can make a profound difference. And it’s not just networking – it’s about understanding yourself and learning what it takes to succeed. 

Contino notes, “Mentorship is about developing a trusting relationship with someone whose experiences you can draw from and whom you can count on to listen and help you grow and reach your goals.”

Learn more about Strayer University’s online degree programs.

Category: Motivation & Inspiration

Published Date: APRIL 4, 2024