Mentoring minute: how do I find a mentor?

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Successful people across all industries largely agree that big accomplishments rarely happen in a vacuum. Individuals need support and guidance to grow careers and that is where a mentor can help. Here are 10 tips for finding the right mentor:

Understand what a mentor can do for you. A mentor will cheer you on, challenge you, and guide you through your life and career. They may encourage you to apply for new opportunities or help you through challenges. A mentor can be someone from your same functional community or a different area you are interested in exploring.

Be clear about your goals. Before you find a mentor, you need to reflect on what you wish to gain from the relationship. Think about why you are seeking a mentor. Determine the gaps in your work performance, functional abilities, and what you need to better understand about your career function or mission.

Find the right mentor or mentors for you. Use your goals, look at the leaders around you. Mentors are normally one or two levels above you in your career track. You may need more than one mentor depending on your goals, meaning you can learn more from a diverse group. If you do not know of anyone, reach out to your supervisors to ask for their help. The MyVector Mentoring tool can help your find an Air Force mentor, see the link below. Remember the local Wing or Center Force Development Office can help as well.

Make sure to look for different perspectives. Diversity matters. Mentors in other functional areas may have a different mission than you, but their perspectives may give you ideas on what to apply to your own career and daily job duties.

Reach out and establish a relationship. If you have someone in mind to be your mentor, reach out and ask them. If you were wanting to ask someone you don’t know to be your mentor try to make a common connection with a friend, coworker, or supervisor. Be open about what you are looking for and accept help if it is offered.

Be specific about what you want. Make clear your goals and intentions. It is important to be clear about you want out of the mentoring relationship in case the person you have chosen is not able to offer it to you.

Make it easy for your mentor. Be respectful of your mentor’s time by taking care of the logistics. Find a meeting place or set up a video call. Make it easy for them so that they just need to show up, and if they have an executive assistant you should work with them for your scheduling. Be on time for your meeting and remember that there is a set time limit.

Listen and show them you value their feedback. If your mentor makes a recommendation, demonstrate that you’re going to do it and provide feedback of what happened. Always take notes during your meetings. If you are meeting virtually, ask if you can record the session to reference again later. Do not be offended if the answer is no.

Mentors will likely change over your career. As you grow, change in your position and in your personal life, the mentor relationship will change too. Having multiple mentors is not a bad thing. Be upfront with your current mentor if you want to seek help in a different area. This trusted partner may be able to recommend your next mentor.

Show gratitude. Your mentor has a personal life, job, and responsibilities, so you should respect them by not demanding too much of their time. Find small ways to demonstrate your gratitude and kindness within the ethical rules of the Air Force. This could be a hand-written note or a phone call to see how they are doing. Remember that your mentor will want to hear from you long into the future.

When you have mentor, you gain insight from someone who has already reached the point you are trying to get to. All employees are encouraged to not only find a mentor, but also be a mentor!

Mentors and mentees can create and or update their profiles in the MyVECTOR mentoring module at https://myvector.us.af.mil/. Additional information can be found on the AFMC Mentoring Feature Site at www.afmc.af.mil/careers/AFMC-Mentoring/.

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