February 15, 2017

The 4 Steps of Finding a Mentor and Developing a Relationship With Them


Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to find outstanding mentors to guide me through my profession and to help me find ways to work for causes I am passionate about. If you’re looking for a mentor to help you reach the next stage of your career, there are four things you should do:

1. Self-Reflect

The first step in finding a good mentor involves reflecting on where you are in your education or career. Identify the core values you hold dear in your profession. Are you interested in learning more about public service, the competitive nature of business, or the calculated risk of the financial market? Are you seeking guidance on how to navigate the workplace, how to improve work-life balance, or how to deal with a difficult coworker? Understanding your core values and needs is an important first step because mentorship is, at its core, about finding shared interests.

2. Be Present and Seek Mutual interests

Next, look for any mentorship programs that may currently be offered to you and take advantage of them. Many businesses now have mentor programs to pair new associates with senior executives. In the field of law, bar associations on the local and state levels offer mentorship programs to match newly licensed attorneys with more experienced practitioners. Some college and graduate programs match students with alumni who work within the department’s field of study. Speaking with human resource personnel, college advisors, or staff within membership organizations is a good way to find a mentor.

If there are no mentor programs available to you, place yourself in environments where you will be likely to encounter motivated people who are active in the fields about which you are passionate. Attending events like nonprofit fundraisers, galas, and business socials will often put you in the same room as executive directors, board members, politicians, community leaders, and experienced members of organizations who, at a minimum, share your interest in that event.

Regardless of how you meet a prospective mentor, be mindful that the introduction is not an interview in which to state your accomplishments and prove yourself worthy of being mentored. You are looking to find mutual interest. Engage prospective mentors in conversations about themselves, their reason for being at the event or involved in the mentor program, and their job and interests.

Chat3. Follow Up

If you get a prospective mentor’s contact information, don’t simply send an email to say it was great meeting them. Invite the person to talk again. A great way to follow up is to invite them to coffee, lunch, an event your organization is hosting, or a quick phone call.

4. Develop the Relationship

Whether you are paired with a mentor through an organization or you are seeking one out on your own, the relationship will only go as far as you are willing to take it. You need to take ownership in communicating with your mentor. You should work with your prospective mentor to schedule regular times to connect and do your best to attend every meeting.

Of course, scheduling conflicts will arise, but you shouldn’t allow a meeting to be canceled without proposing an alternate time to talk/meet. When you do meet, be prepared to ask questions, listen, and learn.

Finding someone who shares your interests and wants to guide you is not always easy. Do not be discouraged if your first attempts at building mentor-mentee relationships do not work. It is not an indictment of any individual if they do not have the time or desire to mentor you. It takes a special person to be a mentor, and finding these special people takes time.

From my experience, taking that time to find good mentors is well worth it.

Michael Silver is a deputy commissioner with the North Carolina Industrial Commission and a graduate of [email protected], the online Master of Public Administration program from UNC. 

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Michael Silver is a deputy commissioner with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. In that quasi-judicial role, he serves as the trial-level judge in contested workers' compensation cases and prisoner tort claims. He previously served as an assistant district attorney at the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office, where he prosecuted more than 45 felony trials, including a capital murder trial where the defendant received the death penalty. Michael has successfully litigated a range of cases leading to more than 750 felony convictions and was a lead prosecutor for the state during the Racial Justice Act proceedings in Cumberland and Forsyth counties. Michael earned his B.S. in elementary education from North Carolina A&T State University and taught fifth grade at an elementary school in High Point, North Carolina. He later earned his law degree from North Carolina Central University School of Law and a master of public administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.