The Working Girl’s Guide to Finding a Mentor

Photo: Vivian Chen

Welcome to Well+Good’s (Re)New Year—a five-week expert-led program that’s all about helping you have your best year yet. For Week Three, we’ve brought on Meena Harris—lawyer, tech policy adviser, feminist, and founder of I'm an Entrepreneur, Bitch. (Leadership runs in the family—her aunt is Kamala Harris, the just-elected US Senator from California.) Throughout the week, she'll be sharing her tips for feeling empowered, taking action, and getting ahead—at work and in life.

If you speak to any accomplished woman—in any field—chances are she owes part of her success to a mentor. 

After all, it's the person who inspires you (crucial), gives advice in challenging times (vital), and offers you opportunities when you least expect them (a pretty nice bonus). 

But getting one is easier said than done. When I was in law school, one of the frequently-asked questions among my peers was, "How do you find a mentor?" Often implicit was an assumption that you can just walk up to someone at a networking event, invite that person to coffee, and—voila!—you've got a professional adviser. Here's the cold, hard truth: It's not that easy.

If you're hoping to gain the true value that comes with real guidance—including building a genuine friendship over time—it’s more than just asking someone. In fact, there's actual strategy to finding someone who you not only admire, but also can help you make your dreams a reality.

Here are my four tips for finding the perfect mentor. And I want to see how you're crushing your goals as part of the (Re)New Year—share on Instagram using #iamwellandgood.

Photo: Vivian Chen

1. Do the work

The first step to finding The One—in a mentorship setting, that is—is doing good work that can be recognized by someone superior to you. This professional relationship is meant to be a mutual one, and no one will want to invest time in someone who doesn’t show promise. So bring your A-game and make an impression.

Photo: Stocksy/Alia Images

2. Make sure your work is seen

Part of making an impression is ensuring that all of your hard work is seen. If there’s someone in particular who you're eyeing as potential mentor material, figure out a way to actually do work for them. This will not only give you a glimpse into what they do in their position, but also shows initiative and makes you stand out. 

Photo: Stocksy/Studio Firma

3. Learn about different roles

You don't have to stick to the confines of your office to find a trusted adviser. Whether it's an entrepreneur who might be able to impart some business-savvy or a CEO of a firm whose work you aspire to, you should always keep your options open.

While doing a "blind outreach" on someone you admire from afar is okay, turning it into a strategic learning opportunity is important. In other words, don't just reach out because that person holds an impressive title. Do your research in advance, be prepared with specific questions that demonstrate thought and care, and make an ask with a clear objective. Not only will this help you to get the most out of the interaction, but it also shows respect and appreciation for the other person’s time.

And speaking of: Assuming your potential mentor's schedule is busy, make it as easy as possible for her to say yes to your request—a phone call is probably better than coffee, and if you do an in-person meeting, offer to travel to a convenient location.

Photo: Vivian Chen

4. Prioritize friendship.

In the end, a good professional relationship is a friendship built on mutual respect and admiration. Honestly, I think the word "mentor" can suggest a one-way relationship too much—when it really should be a two-way street. (Sometimes you can even find guidance from a peer.)

The best advice for this is to look for someone you can comfortably chat with, ask questions to, and learn from. It shouldn't feel like an informational interview every time you chat. This person should be someone you can open up to and share your fears and dreams with—and in return, gain guidance and confidence from. It should be someone who always has your back and will stick up for you when you need it most. So go on—you've got some mentor-searching to do!

Missed Day 2? Read Meena Harris' tips for how to invest in your passions.

The (Re)New Year series is not a “New Year, New You” program. (We think you’re pretty great as is!) Instead, we tapped the biggest and best influencers across the wellness space to help kick off the New Year in the best possible way. Between heart-racing workouts, DIY beauty recipes, and killer confidence advice, get ready to have your happiest and healthiest year yet.

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