Many people look at mentorship like they look at romantic relationships: They’re trying to find ‘The One.’ But it’s smart to have several different mentors over the span of your career and even several at the same time. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes, and they can offer more emotional or information-based support. The basic role of a mentor is to provide reassurance and wisdom in your career. Sometimes mentors might give you general guidance for handling tricky career situations, and others might be better for specific industry-related advice.


“I like to think about mentors as a board of advisors,” says Lindsey Pollak, a career expert and author of Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders.“I like to think about mentors as a board of advisors.” Pollak continues, “After all, you may have an older and wiser professional who gives you big-picture career advice, a peer mentor who can relate to exactly what you’re going through and someone who’s great for dishing out insight into how a career move might affect your personal life.”


Once you broaden your horizons, instead of trying to focus in on one ideal person, Pollak believes you’ll realize mentors come in all different forms.


Most people understand the value of a career mentor, but have trouble finding their way to a single connection, so here are Pollak’s simple guidelines for help in the search of a successful mentor relationship.



Find people for your personal advisory board

Attending industry and networking events can be a valuable tool in meeting interesting people, but if you go to the same gatherings time after time, you’re not opening yourself up to anyone new. “I would challenge people to not always show up in the same places,” says Pollak. “Go to an event you wouldn’t normally go to—that’s when you maximize connections.” Beyond industry events, employee resource groups or volunteer groups can be a good place to start.


Perfect your approach

If you’re contacting someone for the first time, keep it short and simple, but never ask for anything big. You don’t have to jump right into asking someone to be your mentor. Instead, Pollak recommends trying a conversation starter like, “I really admire how you built your career. I have a few questions about how you got to where you are. Do you think I could send them to you or could we find a time to chat?” Beginning with a moment or a question is a good way to build a relationship. “You might later ask the person to be a mentor, or the relationship might just grow organically.”


Take Your Craft Seriously

If you’re approaching someone who’s successful in what they do, it’s very likely that they take their job seriously. You want to meet them with the same intensity and passion. One of my Pollak’s own mentors told her early on: “I meet a lot of annoying, negative, people who just work to get a paycheck. What’s the fun of being around those people?”


Stay In Touch

Finally, when it comes to frequency: speak, email, text or meet with mentors about every 3–4 months. Think about it as ‘once a season.’ And in between meetings exchange emails for things outside your professional industry, like book recommendations, articles, or questions. Unless you have the opportunity to work together on a frequent basis, you don’t need to meet your mentor every week because you want to take their advice and apply it. So give it time.