Tonight, my post is really more of a question: How do you find a good professional mentor?
The importance of mentors for one’s professional growth and guidance has been emphasized to me repeatedly over the years but recently the reminders have been even more prevalent. With the ending of my master’s program and the beginning of the next phase in my career, I have been attending a number of professional networking events, including a recent conference at American University. Like the other events I have attended, the Women in Business Conference reiterated the value of having a mentor but when I sat down at the “mentoring” table during lunch, there were no clear answers about how to find a mentor. I heard warnings about the political and professional complications that can arise from having a mentor in your workplace (e.g., a boss or colleague) and I heard the age old advice of reaching out to everyone you possibly can to connect with potential future mentors. I also heard comments about the added-value of mentors for women and young professionals. I’m curious to learn if there is research behind those ideas but I’m even more curious to discover why mentoring can be such a “hot topic” at networking events yet rarely have any clear actions steps associated with it. I have discovered that finding a mentor is not as easy as simply contacting as many people as you can or crossing your fingers and hoping that one will magically appear (I’ve tried).
Given the crossroads I am currently at professionally (i.e., selecting a career path to build upon my new master’s degree, one that ideally combines some or all of my interests in early childhood education, global education, and educational technology) it seems like the perfect time to search for a professional mentor. It would be amazing to have guidance about various professional paths, such as working as an independent consultant versus a full-time employee, or to to learn more about the best ways to find a career that will allow me to continue to grow professionally. I’m interested to hear another person’s professional perspective about each of the career fields I am exploring and the ideal way to set myself up to achieve my professional goals.
So with all of those questions in mind, I ultimately come back to the first question, how do you find a good professional mentor? I’d love to hear others’ ideas and experiences with answering this question!