If you’re trying to find your way in the world as an entrepreneur, or simply in your career, you should know that you don’t have to go at it alone. There is a long line of women who have walked this road before you. Utilizing the often-untapped resource of a mentor can make a huge difference in your professional development and ultimately your success. When seeking a mentor, be intentional- look for someone who can offer you valuable, even critical, feedback, advice, and open doors for you to new opportunities to advance your career.
But, where you do you start?
You have know to know where to look. Here are a few avenues to help you find a mentor and help you get closer to achieving your career or business goals:
1. Ask Someone You Know
A great place to start in finding a mentor is to simply ask someone you know to be your mentor or to recommend a mentor. Maybe you have a coworker, or someone higher up in your organization, who you admire professionally that you can approach.
If you don’t already know someone who could be a good mentor, ask friends, family members, or colleagues for their recommendations. They might know a go-getter female executive that you otherwise would not have had the opportunity to connect with.
2. Online Mentorship Networks
If you’re an entrepreneur, finding a mentor can sometimes be a bit more challenging. Online mentorship networks bridge the gap if you have a limited professional network and take some of the guesswork out to help match you with a mentor.
This worldwide network reaches 18 million women per week. The service offers a 24/7 digital advice hotline. According to Forbes, Mogul “Leverages technology to connect women and [encourages] them to learn from each other as well as support themselves.” If you needed another reason to love this mentor service, they provide free educational resources to women in need through international partners such as the UN.
Find a Mentor-
If you value continuing education (which, you should!) this free self-service tool is a great resource for matching you with a mentor or building a group to brainstorm and learn from peers. Find a Mentor includes over 1,500 categories including leadership, career, and communications.
Designed especially for small businesses, SCORE provides a volunteer mentor network with plenty of heavy hitters due to its backing by the Small Business Administration. There are 62 different industries to choose from, so there are plenty of mentor options.
this cloud-based service focuses on providing mentors for entrepreneurs, students, and nonprofits. What makes MentorCity stand out is its ability to provide mentor matches based on things such as, industry, job function, skills, experience, language, location, and gender.
3. Networking Events
Networking events are designed for meeting people and making new business contacts. Take advantage of the situation and use the opportunity to seek out a mentor. Even though the people at the event may not be mentor worthy, let them know you’re looking and someone within their network may be the perfect fit!
4. Social Media
Social media is good for just about everything these days and it’s practically a goldmine for finding mentors. Facebook and LinkedIn are full of groups and pages with professional women looking for, and looking to be, mentors. Finding a mentor on social media may present some challenges. For example, you might find a mentor that lives in a different state or country, making in person meetings nearly impossible. But, on the flip side, by gaining a mentor outside of your local area, you are now open to a world of different perspectives and opportunities that you otherwise wouldn’t have had access to. If you find the perfect mentor on social media you can leverage technology to meet with your mentor using platforms like FaceTime or Skype.
5. Join a Lean In Circle
Lean In Circles are groups of women in your community who meet regularly to give advice, mentor, and support one another. The great thing about a Lean In Circle is that you will encounter women from all kinds of professions, backgrounds, and stages of life, and “whether you’re working toward a promotion or building your confidence, reentering the workforce or starting a business,” you can probably benefit from joining a Lean In Circle.
6. Look Outside of Your Industry
It’s a common assumption that when searching for a mentor that it has to be someone who did the same job a few years ago that you’re currently doing. While a mentor in your industry certainly comes with its advantages, seeking a mentor outside of your industry or field is a great way to grow professionally. Staying in related industries is probably best. For example, if you work in marketing, seek mentorship from someone in sales or human resources. If you plan to continue to move up in your company or industry, having a breadth of knowledge will be a valuable asset when you own your own business or move into a management or senior leadership position.
Finding a mentor can seem like an overwhelming task. You don’t always have to have a formal mentor to receive valuable mentorship. Seek out mentorship moments when the opportunity arises. Have a big presentation with someone more senior or a prospective client? Set up an appointment with them afterwards for a feedback session. Although you might not meet with that person on a regular basis, that interaction gave you an opportunity to receive something from them that you can use to better yourself as a professional.