One of the most popular types of career advice I hear is “find a mentor.” My problem is that not only do I not have one, I don’t even know what kind of mentor to look for. So far I like my career path and life – do I need a mentor? And if I do, how do I find one? And once I find one, how do I ask them to be my mentor? — Mentorless, 27, Tampa
Having a mentor is not a necessity. You are not doomed if you do not have one in your lifetime – but you will be missing out on an extremely valuable relationship. I have a handful of people in my life who are mentors I turn to for guidance, support, and course-corrective advice when I am at a crossroads. In fact, writing this column came about because of a relationship with a mentor.
So you don’t “need” one, but why wouldn’t you want one? If you are getting stuck on who should be your mentor, you are probably either over- or under-thinking it. You’re over-thinking it if you are looking for only people in your particular career field who are living the exact life you want to live in five, ten or twenty years. Stop looking for a perfect match and simply identify people who you admire and respect because of their career achievements, personal values, or both.
You are under thinking by assuming there is no one out there who you could ask to be a mentor. Take a review of your life and brainstorm all mentoring possibilities: old professors, past employers or colleagues, friends, your family, and so on. And stretch your mentor brainstorming and make a list of individuals you may not know personally, but could reach out to via a connection or even a cold call or email. There are more wise (a nicer word for “older”) individuals out there who would like to be mentors than there are young people asking to be mentees. It is far easier than finding someone to date or even a pair of jeans that fit.
Once you determine your target mentor and your method of making a connection, stop making excuses not to instigate this relationship. Cold calling a mentor does not have to be nerve racking because you are not selling anything or seeking employment. You are simply calling to flatter their ego by asking them to be a mentor. Trust me, ANYONE likes to hear they are admired.
Having mentors enriches your human experience. They become your unbiased cheerleaders who have “been there, done that” and selflessly encourage you. And I suspect once you recognize the tremendous value of having a mentor, you will be inspired to be one to someone else.
Christine Hassler supports individuals in discovering the answers to the questions: “Who Am I, What do I want, and How do I get it?” Christine grew up in Dallas, graduated cum laude from Northwestern University and received her Masters Degree in Psychology from the University of Santa Monica. She is now a Life Coach with a counseling emphasis specializing in relationships, career, finances, self-identity, personal and spiritual growth. Her expertise is centered on the twenty and early thirty something years of life. Christine has authored two books: Twenty-Something, Twenty-Everything: A Quarter-life Woman’s Guide to Balance and Direction and The Twenty-Something Manifesto. As a professional speaker, Christine leads seminars and workshops to audiences around the country. She has spoken to over 10,000 college students as well as to conferences and corporations about generational diversity. Christine has appeared as an expert on The Today Show, CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX, E!, Style and PBS, as well as various local television and radio shows, speaking about life issues and “Expectation Hangovers®” – a phenomenon she identified and trademarked.
Christine is the spokesperson for Zync from American Express and the key resource for their Quarterlife Program, which empowers young people to take control of their finances. She also created a life balance curriculum for the Leadership Institute and is a member of Northwestern University’s Council of 100. Beginning this fall, Christine will serve on the faculty of the University of Santa Monica.