Mentors can have a significant impact on the direction of your career, and most importantly they're there to give you some perspective.
During Bill Gates' Ted Talk regarding the importance of mentors, there is a segment featuring Eric Schmidt, Former Chairman of Google. Schmidt had this to say about mentors:
"Every famous athlete, every famous performer has somebody who's a coach. They can give them perspective." He continues by saying "the one thing people are never good at is seeing themselves as others see them."
One of the main purposes of mentorship is to help you see your blind spots; to help you figure out what you're not good at and what skills you're missing. But finding that perfect person isn't easy.
Here are three tips to help you find the right mentor.
1. Don't try to "hire" a mentor at least initially, but please do ask many people for advice.
There are plenty of services where you can hire people for advice, such as the service Clarity.fm. These services are excellent when you have a specific problem you think they can solve.
A great mentor is someone committed to your growth, not when the commitment is related to you compensating them for mentoring you. I've tried desperately in the past to find a mentor to hire, and I never found the right fit for me. As I went through my career, I knew exactly who would be able to help me, and that's when I asked if they could mentor me in certain activities.
So, in the beginning stages of trying to find a mentor, I highly recommend asking several people for advice first instead of going for the full mentorship route. I do this by attending networking events, and meeting people face to face. While I'm there, I usually have a few questions to problems I'm trying to solve and I'll get some great initial feedback and hear things I haven't thought of.
Occasionally, you'll love someone's answer or the other person went above and beyond to help you solve your problem. This is a good sign that this person could become one of your next mentors.
2. Find someone who's had a similar career path as you.
I know there are coaches who have never done what you're doing and are fantastic at helping you advance your career. Then there are coaches who have gone through exactly what you're going through and were able to overcome it. The difference between these two coaches is that the latter can give you practical tips and professional connections to solve your problem or advance your career.
This is also a big reason I only do executive coaching for executives in IT or Marketing. I know the industry well and I'm able to not just motivate them to become a better leader, but to help guide them through the industry. It's the nuances in my advice that aren't available anywhere else.
3. There is no single way to find a mentor. Sometimes you need to stop looking.
I think the biggest misconception is that mentors answer to some sort of job posting for a mentee and an immediate connection is made like it's Tinder. The reality is that the best mentors are found during your normal course of work or hobbies.
My tip for anyone looking for a mentor is to start attending events and be active in your industry network. Start showing up every day and work your network. You'll eventually run into someone you think can help you grow. Very similar to how you find a significant other is how you'll find a great mentor. If you both click, then establishing a mentor/mentee relationship is fairly simple.
Finding the right mentor will happen once you become dedicated to honing your craft and surrounding yourself with the smartest people you know. If you do that, you will find magic.
Just like Schmidt said, you need someone else's perspective. You're running blind, and if you're lucky, you'll find a mentor who provides you with the insights needed to make great leaps in your career path.