Working with a mentor can bring big benefits, from getting honest feedback on your work to expanding your network. Among those who work with mentors, 97 percent say the relationship is valuable, according to the Mentor Coach Foundation. Having a mentor to consult is especially helpful early in your career. But how do you find one and establish a productive relationship? According to Journalist Lisa Rabasca Roepe, you must first determine what you’re looking for and what you want next in your career.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we outline Roepe’s top suggestions for finding and engaging with a mentor.

Know what you need. Depending on where you are in your career, you may seek a mentor for different kinds of support. Early-career professionals may need someone to help them navigate their field, while mid-career and experienced professionals may need someone to help them navigate challenging situations, Roepe says.

Expand your search. A mentor doesn’t need to be an executive. Roepe recommends looking at your network of colleagues, college connections and friends. You may find more value working with someone 3-5 years ahead of you rather than someone who is 20-30 years your senior, she says.

Seek different perspectives. When considering mentors, expand your search beyond your department or background. Working with someone who has different skills and viewpoints can give you a more well-rounded experience. If you work in sales, look to professionals in your company’s human resources or IT departments.

Just reach out. Once you identify a possible mentor, send them an email or ask them to meet for a quick coffee. Explain your situation or challenge and find out if they might be interested in working with you as a mentor. You might say something like, “I just received a promotion to sales manager, and I want to make sure I’m prepared for my role. I admire how you run your team, and I’m wondering if I could get some feedback from you.”

Make it easy for the mentor. Once you find your mentor, be respectful of their time. Find a meeting place or set up a Zoom call so all they have to do is show up and offer their advice, Roepe says. You might also want to send an agenda in advance.

Incorporate their feedback. To get the most out of the mentoring relationship, you have to be willing to listen. Take the ideas your mentor suggests and apply them. This could mean reading a certain book, listening to a particular podcast or adjusting a behavior. Then, let your mentor know that you acted on their feedback.

Stay flexible. Your mentors will likely change as you progress in your career, Roepe says. Most people don’t work with the same mentor all the way from an entry-level position to the C-suite. Reflect on where you are now and what you need most from a mentor.

Always show gratitude. Whether you work with a mentor for a couple of months or many years, remember that they are freely sharing their insight to help you grow. Show them you appreciate their time and help by saying thank you often. They should know you care about them as much as you expect them to care about you, Roepe says.

Working with a mentor can support your professional growth at various stages of your career. As you move into different roles and navigate different circumstances, you can go through the process of finding prospective mentors, reaching out and maximizing the relationship.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Lisa Rabasca Roepe is a freelance journalist who writes about the culture of work, entrepreneurship and technology.