Top Tips on selecting a Mentor

Mentor word cloud

Mentor word cloud

New Year + New Hopes + New Influences = NEW You


A great way to challenge yourself and grow professionally is to get the support of a mentor. You can choose someone you think would be a good mentor and then ask, “Would you consider a mentoring relationship with me?”

But wait! Before you do that, optimize your chances and check out these tips:

  1. Be clear on why you want a mentor. Are you looking for someone to offer specific advice? Do you want a conduit to your industry’s movers and shakers.
  2. Define your personality and communication style. What kind of mentor would best complement you? You may choose someone who’s your opposite (an extrovert to your introvert, for example)
  3. A mentor is a powerful role model. Look for someone who has the kind of life and work you’d like to emulate or attain. Also, choose a mentor you truly respect. Don’t just go for the biggest “name” you can find.
  4. When looking for a mentor, think beyond former bosses and professors. Look to older family members or friends, neighbors, spiritual leaders, community leaders, the networks of your friends and colleagues, or officials of professional or trade associations you belong to. Avoid asking your direct supervisor at work. You want to be free to discuss workplace issues as well as your plans for future advancement.
  5. Keep in mind that mentoring can take many forms. It can be a monthly lunch, a quarterly phone call, a weekly handball game, or merely a steady E-mail correspondence. Your mentor does not even have to live in your city or region.
  6. Many mentors derive pleasure from “molding” someone in their own images—great for them and great for you if you want to be molded. But beware of mentors who are too bossy, controlling, or judgmental. This is your path, not theirs.
  7. Guess what: You’re allowed to have more than one mentor. In fact, you can have a whole committee if you want, and call it your Board of Directors. Choose different mentors for different facets of your professional (and even personal) life.
  8. Finally, if you ask someone to be your mentor and that person refuses, don’t be hurt or offended. This is not personal! Potential good mentors are very busy people. Be sure to thank him or her for the consideration.


If you study the path of successful people, you’ll see that most of them had considerable help along the way. A mentor can be a the key to a “better” you this year. Go Forth and find your new mentor!


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Tips were written by: Karen Burns is the author of the illustrated career advice book The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. For more “Working Girl Wisdom” Karen blogs at


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