From high-level CEOs to professional athletes to your sixth-grade self, we can all benefit from the guidance of a great mentor. But how do you find the right mentor for you? Charley Polachi, long-time executive search consultant, answers that question and more in today’s ZipRecruiter Q&A.
Why is it crucial to have a mentor?
At any age, it is prudent to have coaches and advisors instruct us to avoid pratfalls and tap into best practices. As we advance in our professional careers, the stakes get higher and the landscape more competitive — more urgent than ever to seek trusted counsel.
Even high profile CEOs – Larry Ellison, Warren Buffet, and the late Steve Jobs – hold mentors in high regard. They understand the long-term value of these relationships for developing promising talent.
No one climbs Mt. Everest without insight from an experienced mountain climber; similarly, no one succeeds in business without the advice of other business leaders to get to the top.
When looking for a mentor, is there a difference for those who are employed verses unemployed?
There are significant differences for those that are employed and unemployed when looking for a mentor.
When looking for a mentor while unemployed, it is urgent to look for someone within your field who has some knowledge of what you are looking to do and connect you to decision makers quickly. They’ll be able to assess your strengths and weaknesses while helping direct your goals in a realistic fashion. It’s important to stay away from peers – older employees may have more experience and deeper networks.
It may be tempting to look for someone within your organization to become your mentor, but this person also has his or her own career and agenda in mind which may not align with your long-term goals. Instead, look for someone outside of your organization, preferably in a similar field that is willing to mentor you with a long-term perspective.
How should individuals go about identifying and initiating a relationship with a mentor?
Individuals should always keep their eyes open for someone that could potentially become a mentor. Looking outside of your organization for others in associations and businesses related to your field is a great starting point. Use common interests, such as hobbies or alumni organizations, as a great way to meet your next mentor. Never go to a direct competitor of your business.
Initiating a relationship with a potential mentor should be done by openly asking for their advice. Like in any relationship, work on building the relationship before asking for the mentorship.
When meeting, whether for a meal or coffee, make your best effort to pick up the tab.
What is the #1 mistake you see people making after they have initiated a relationship with a mentor?
The worst mistake to make after receiving insight from a mentor is to not trust what they are saying. A mentor is providing advice, often free of charge, for what will help take you to the next level.
Is there anything else you would like to say about this topic?
When looking for a mentor, don’t pursue someone that is over-extended. You are looking for long-term and sage career advice. If your mentor seems unable to juggle actively meeting and engaging with you, chances are that they are not a great fit at that point.
Many of us have been coached for most of our lives. Everyone should understand that no one achieves success as a solo player.
Look for an annual Career Audit.
I’m a major proponent of annual career audits – ideally, ask your mentor for a yearly assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. The mentor, as a non-invested party, can provide insight into where you need to go, what you should improve upon, and what your real future prospects are.
About the Expert
Charley Polachi is a Partner at Polachi, the leading provider of Access Executive Search™ services to technology, clean tech, venture capital and private equity clients. Having situated hundreds of C-level executives in the technology sector over the last 30 years, Charley is one of the most well-respected executive search consultants in the industry. Connect with Polachi on Twitter.