When people start out their personal development journey, one step that is often missed is the advice of getting a mentor. “But, but, but… this is my story — this is about ME!” you might say as you furiously Google for empty click-bait feel-good articles and sign up for expensive, uninspiring online courses. Carrying yourself through your self-made development plan on your own terms might make you more stuck than you think.

Maybe you had a mentor in your high school or university, when once upon a time you were a dorky freshman. They were probably filled with school spirit and all that jazz, and you were probably more amused than inspired by their rah-rah-rahs. The thing is, you were just forced to have that mentor. Now, you have the pick of the litter according to your own personal belief and needs.

Mentorship is a successful way to pass on knowledge and experience. It’s proven through the relationships of Mahatma Gandhi to Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou to Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs to Marc Benioff, and so on. Mentorships work! But you must put in the work, too.

Mentorship is something that you will have to seek. In the real, cruel world, you’re going to have to work for a great mentor. There are already tons of ways to find one. But how do you make sure they’re best for you, and most important of all, how will they challenge you? Here are some tips to make sure you’re on the path to getting a great mentor who will help you achieve your goals.

They don’t have to be a friend or from work.
Heck, they don’t even have to be from the same industry or background as you. While of course it’s best to find a mentor in someone who is not a stranger, we should keep ourselves more open to the possibilities around us.

It could be someone at your volunteer group who used to run his own business. It could be your old economics teacher in university — she could help you make sense out of your plans to go global. If you think that your mentor should be a supervisor in your office, that doesn’t really give you as much perspective as it should, and could even make you biased.

Feel around your network for names that you have heard of, with experiences and ambitions you would like to know more about. Open your connections up and ask to be introduced to these figures. After just a quick chat, you can tell who has potential to be a mentor or not — just feel for that exciting buzz in your brain when you talk!

Assess their experience.
The whole reason you are looking for a great mentor is to learn from them. Look at general skills instead of hard positions and industries. For example, you are looking to be an independent entreprenuer, and a possible mentor match became project manager for SMEs supported by an NGO. They would have the management skills necessary for your brain bank!

You are holding your own private admission process when you are looking for a mentor. Stalk their LinkedIn page and find out as much as you can about your candidate’s professional life. There might be certain line items that you feel can really add some value into your learning journey. Contact them for a quick chat over coffee if you’d like to know more.

Looking into their experience, especially with what they feel comfortable putting into their public profiles, should give you a good idea of who would be best for you or not. Quick and easy, bet you didn’t even break a sweat.
Consider the competition.
I’m not asking you to brave the trenches and cross over to your company’s rivals to get a great mentor — though that would be pretty badass. You should be able to find a mentor who has a good idea of what is going on in the other side of the world.
Having this wide and worldly perspective is sure to deliver an interesting take on the way things are done. You would want to know what the other side has in store for you, right? You aren’t going to learn from someone who knows your current job to a T. That’s mind-numbing and boring.

It might be a competitor you networked with at a symposium, and you exchanged notes over the difficulty of the economics surrounding your business. Perhaps they’ve moved on to a new job and have time to accommodate a mentor. Strike while the iron is hot. But remember, don’t go for the mentor if conflict of interest still exists. Baaad idea.

Try to get other people in the action.
It’s a rather sexy way to put it, but can you imagine a mentoring ménage a trois? Sometimes we can’t find a challenging mentor because we’re so focused on how they will help us and only ourselves. It’s a very one-way relationship when you think about it.
It’s not that easy to get that out of our mindset. Are we the only ones who should benefit from your mentor’s great advice? Are you like a clingy girlfriend or boyfriend who needs their attention 100%? Snap out of it!

One way to get around this is to expand your circle of learning and invite other interested parties in your mentoring sessions! Inviting other perspectives in your learning experience expands it even further. You never know what kind of information you can receive through listening and engaging into another conversation. Compare notes and gain great business relationships in this kind of set-up.

Remember that the best mentor isn’t the one with the most amazing resume, or the one with a big name. The best kind of mentor is the one who inspires you to get off your ass and think, act, and believe! This tips can set you off into the right direction, straight into an amazing learning experience.

Don’t fret, the right mentor is just around the corner, willing to help you out reach the Next Level you’ve been working and waiting for.

Powered by Marion Fernandez & The Galiano Group Writing Team.