Q. I noticed in one of your blog entries that Sarah Fulford recommends finding a mentor. How does one find, then approach a mentor? Especially if that person is not a friend, a friend of a friend, or in the industry one currently works. Sarah was fortunate to have John Macfarlane. What advice, then, for the rest of us?
A. First, don't be so quick to dismiss those who are around you. Colleagues and supervisors, both former and current, can be great mentors. Keep your eyes open and really think about the people you know – they needn't be "celebrity" editors; you just need to respect and admire something about them, and feel like there's something they can teach you.
Inc.com has put together a collection of past stories and tips on the mentoring relationship. Most are business related, but here are a selection of tips that I think are applicable:
• Consciously think about where you are in your career, and where you would like to be. Honestly assess what type of personality you have, and which personality types complement your style. Consider your strengths and weaknesses, and define how a mentor might guide you through your growth.
• Keep an open mind regarding who this person might be: A mentor is someone who will help you grow in the area(s) most important to you. This person is not necessarily your supervisor, or anyone with a high-ranking title, or even someone in the same business. Look for someone who exemplifies the traits and skills that you want to adopt.
• Good sources of mentors include your management team, industry associations, online communities, your clergy and/or congregation, and professors. Also consider people in your non-workplace communities, such as retirees, local business owners, and people associated with your hobbies. (Note: Some personal coaches advise against choosing your supervisor as a mentor because of a possible conflict of interest.)
• [P]utting all your mentor eggs in one basket can be a mistake. "I think people really ought to think in terms of multiple mentors instead of just one," concludes [Kathy] Kram, the author of Mentoring at Work.
• [H]ow do you persuade him or her to sign on to your cause? Would-be mentors are most receptive to people who ask good questions, listen well to the responses and demonstrate that they are hungry for advice and counsel, Kram says.
• You need someone to give you very realistic, appropriate, frank, personal feedback -- someone who has the same perspective, someone whose experiences you can learn from so you don't have to do everything the hard way -- and you don't always have to make the same mistakes. [Dan Caulfield, CEO of HQ Group, in Oceanside, Calif.]
Corinna vanGerwen is a freelance editor and writer. She has worked as senior editor at Style at Home, senior design editor at Cottage Life and is the former Canadian Director of Ed2010. She has also held the position of operations manager at a boutique PR agency, where she handled strategic planning and daily operations.