We know that one of the best ways to get ahead in a career (or life) is by having a mentor. Someone you can go to for advice, someone who's been there, and someone who has your back. Mentors are like guidance counselors for people with real jobs. In a nutshell, they help you navigate your career by sharing their experiences and giving you a heads up on all the BS you're about to experience. Ok, so that's great, we all need a mentor. But how do you find one? I've wanted to take The Spicy Meatball to the next level for some time now. Wouldn't it be great to help people right out of college learn what to do and what not to do from people who were just there? I thought so! I knew I wanted to take the blog to the next level in terms of readership, engagement, and if I am lucky, income, but the problem was that I didn't know a single blogger personally. All I wanted was a few minutes with someone who is currently living my dream so that I could pick their brain about how they got there. As luck would have it, I sat next to a person at work who had that connection. After talking to me about the direction of my blog, he was kind enough to set up a meeting between a prominent mommy blogger and myself. Effing awesome! My new mentor and I met at IKEA (heaven on Earth) last weekend and I was blown away by all the great insights, fascinating stories, and excellent resources she had for me. I knew as soon as she started to talk that she was the real deal. She was open, honest, and hilarious, so I knew I hit the jackpot. I walked away feeling like I had unlimited potential for my blog and I couldn't wait to get started. Finally, I found a great mentor! If you have an idea about your career direction, and think you need a mentor to help get you into gear, here is what to look for when you're searching for the right guru. Great Insight Get to know where the person came from and how they got to where they are now. A person who's been through it all and seen it all can give you lots of great insight about what to expect in your career. They've dealt with every personality and boss you can think of; so don't be shy about asking personal questions. Stay away from completely inappropriate, but try to get answers to your burning questions (i.e., how much money do you make?). A great mentor will be an open book, so make sure you have intelligent questions to ask and don't embarrass yourself. Idea Validation You want a mentor who likes your ideas. Someone who thinks that the core of what you're doing is awesome and is willing to help you figure out all the details. A great mentor thinks of you as new, excited, and moldable. Be all three of those things. Partner with someone who takes what you say to heart and makes you feel better about yourself. If your mentor poo-poos your ideas right out of the gate, move on, they're not worth your time. Find someone who can help you tap into your passion and be successful. Helpful Planning To fulfill your goals, you'll need a plan. Talking to your mentor about your ideas and gaining insight about their experience is only the beginning of the relationship. The next step is to get clear on the steps you can take to make it happen. Your mentor should be able to provide you with great ideas for where you should go next through practical advice. Don't let them tell you you're doing a good job and just keep doing what you're doing. That's not helpful. Ask targeted questions like, "So, if you were me, what would your next step be?" Keep the conversation moving and try to extract as much information as you can. A good mentor wont find you annoying, but a crappy one will. Take note. Ongoing Support Once you've got your person, idea, and plan it's time to do the grunt work. Figure out what you're going to do next and do it. If you fail miserably, call your mentor. If you exceed your own expectations, call your mentor. You need someone you can rely on, and if your mentor has come this far with you, you can probably be reassured that they're not going to close the door in your face. Be open to receiving ongoing advice and seek answers when new questions come up. You'll be surprised how much you learn and how much easier your path will be to navigate once you're armed with a great mentor. For more information on HOW to find a mentor, join the conversation. photo credit
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