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The Woman's Guide to Finding a Mentor

The Woman's Guide to Finding a Mentor

Meeting with a mentor regularly is a smart way to establish more organization and support for yourself.

Francesca Di Meglio | Writer

When executive mentor Bobb Biehl asks men if they admire and aspire to be like anyone in their own careers, they usually can name a few people. But the question stumps many women.

Often, these women are the first in their families to reach the upper echelons of business and don’t have much of a career support system. Like any pioneers, they tend to face new terrain alone, sometimes unsure where to turn, Biehl explains.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Whether you are a student or headed for the top, you can benefit from finding a mentor or mentors. Learn about why it’s important and how to find the right one.

The Benefits of Having a Mentor

According to Biehl, people who have mentors usually have a more clearly defined concept of self and a network of contacts who can provide valuable resources when trying to meet their goals.

Many people report having more than one mentor, with each serving a different purpose — from someone who helps them organize and achieve their career goals to someone else who supports their role as mother.

In fact, experts say women benefit most from finding a mentor. “Having a mentor helps women to have people in our life who care about us, listen to us and question us without any agenda,” says Jeanne Hartley, principal of training and organizational consulting practice Jeanne Hartley Consulting. “They celebrate our successes with us, and we can go to them with our doubts.”

Women particularly need this sort of support. “Women are making great inroads in middle management,” says Ellen Ensher, coauthor of Power Mentoring: How Successful Mentors and Proteges Get the Most Out of Their Relationships and associate professor of management at Loyola Marymount University. “But we haven’t made the same inroads to the top yet, and it’s harder to get there without mentors.”

Finding the One

You’re ready for a mentor if you’re willing to take advice and criticism, put forth an effort and maintain relationships. But not everyone is mentor material. Many liken the process of finding a mentor to dating, because you’re looking for someone with whom you have chemistry, feel comfortable, can communicate and share similar interests and goals.

Just as dating coaches advise you to cast a wide net when searching for Mr. Right, those who have been through the mentoring process suggest emailing or calling everyone you know to tell them you’re interested in finding a mentor.

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