Recently I was speaking at a California university when a young woman impressed me with a single statement. She told me that even though she wasn't graduating until next year, she had already used LinkedIn to secure five mentors in her chosen field of marketing.

I have always had great mentors throughout my life. They were amazing people who had already advanced on a similar journey and helped me avoid hazards and pitfalls. Mentors give generously of their time and knowledge, often for just the satisfaction of helping someone who inspires them. But finding and attracting the right mentor was always a challenge. It took a lot of networking, introductions, and conversations.

I was fascinated that this smart young student was able to easily create powerful relationships that will give her an edge throughout her career. I couldn't resist interviewing her about her method so I could share it with you. So here is her process. I hope it helps you find those willing to help with your journey.

Step 1.  Find Relevant People

LinkedIn makes it easy to search for the right mentor. With industry groups and the ability to look at the connections of your connections, it's easy to find people who are doing the things you want to do. Find the people who are truly on your desired career path. There may be other people who can help you with connections or insights, but the people at the top of your desired field and in your desired positions are the best ones to help you navigate your own path to success.

Step 2.  Do Your Homework

The first part of your homework is to create a presentable profile for yourself. Once you are projecting an image of someone worthy of another's time you can focus on learning about your potential mentors. Read everything about them. Read all of their recommendations, job descriptions and interests. Check out posts and updates they have made over time. Research them on Google so you can see any press or anything they have written. Make sure their expertise is a fit for your desired career path. The more you know about them the easier it will be to connect in an authentic manner.

Step 3.  Connect In a Meaningful Way

Don't just send out a canned inquiry. Take the time to write a concise personal note that shows your potential mentor that you have an appreciation for who he or she is, and what he or she has accomplished. (Don't overdo it, or you may find yourself the subject of a restraining order.) Briefly and specifically explain your path and how you think he or she can help. Express thanks for his or her time and consideration. Make it easy to connect and give reasonable time to respond. No stalking. Don't be creepy.

Step 4.  Establish Specific Boundaries

If your potential mentor expresses interest, discuss how much time is acceptable and methods of communication. Some people may not be available for weekly meetings. They may just offer to answer a specific question here or there. Respect their wishes and abide by their rules. Time is their most valuable commodity so show them you appreciate not only the time they share but the time they need for their own lives. Watch for signals of concern so you keep the relationship healthy and warm.

Step 5.  Show Gratitude Through Action

You went through all this effort to start this relationship, now you need to foster it. The best way to show appreciation to mentors is to demonstrate that you listened to their guidance and took action. Thank you cards and gifts may or may not seem appropriate, but the more you share the benefits and positive effects of their insights, the more encouraged they will be to share more.

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