The Basics: How to Find a Mentor

For me, a mentor is basically Dumbledore: a wise, composed, compassionate teacher with a sense of humor who is somehow able to see a few steps ahead. (Note: the beard is optional.)

  • It’s the way she answers my questions, teaching me why and how.
  • It’s the challenges she presents, daring me to take that one extra action, because who knows? Something wonderful might happen.
  • It’s her calm demeanor, whatever the storm (including a corrupted file masquerading as a 200+ page manuscript).
  • It’s her words of encouragement, her gentle way of picking me up after a stumble, helping me shake off the dust, and then encouraging me to get back on track—never doing it for me, mind you, but instead making sure I know I’m supported through it all.
  • It’s her self-deprecation, her subtle way of reminding me that she’s a human being, too, rather than a superheroine (though I swear she needs a cape).
  • Most of all, it’s her belief in me, steadfast and nurturing without any condescension (even when I trip toward stupidity).

My mentor wants me to learn, grow, and figure things out on my own. But she’s there for it all, too: a steady, cheerleading force of nature. For me, that is the definition of a mentor.

So how do you find one? Chances are you already have; you just haven’t realized it.

  • Who is the first person you turn to when you have a problem you can’t seem to solve?
  • Who is the first person you think of when your career seems stalled and you don’t know the next move?
  • Who calms you down, lifts you up, and helps you get back on your feet?
  • Who has been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale?

You can always ask someone to be your mentor, but I don’t think that’s strictly necessary. What matters most is that you team up with someone you can learn from in a positive way who makes you want to keep pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone just enough to grow.

A true mentor wants you to succeed—not for selfish reasons but because they truly believe in your ability …

For me, what began as a mentor/mentee relationship has turned into a friendship, and I am now able to give back. She taught me that, too: reciprocation. For that—and for her—I am more grateful than I could ever say.

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