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 maybe even several at the same time, 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,” she says. 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—you’ll realize mentors come in all different forms.
Finding 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, says Pollak. And remember: Your kids’ school, airplanes and even your home neighborhood are all places to meet mentors—you just have to be open to it.
Perfect your approach
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, says Pollak. “You might later ask the person to be a mentor, or the relationship might just grow organically.”