If you do not have a mentor, find one – The FIF Professional Tip #4

At Four Ingenieros Foundation we do it for the kids! We decided to give some advice, tips, stories, and lessons learned from the founders themselves. These tips and experiences have helped them strive from their early days as students and into their engineering careers. To start off this Professional Tip #1 we’d like to remind everyone that our end-of-the-year fundraising campaign is in full effect. Please donate now!

We hear it all the time, “You need a mentor.” It may be for your personal or professional life. In this case, let’s talk about the professional life. Mentors are needed to help you grow in your career, lead you in the right direction, build you up when you are down, help you set goals, and inspire you with their personal stories. Seems straightforward, right? It is not that easy. Finding one is step one.

Step one is the most difficult step. In my experience, I have found different mentors in different types of networks. Many of these mentor relationships started with networking, observing from afar, and seeing how much you identify with the person. To a certain degree, you will relate. It could be because you have similar childhood struggles, your personalities align, or they share inspirational stories that motivate you to set higher and higher goals. I have found many of my mentors at work and through many professional organizations. Many times I have seen them at repeated events and witnessed their dedication and passion for what they do. These are prime candidates that will guide you through tough decisions in your professional life.

Step two is the approach. How do you ask a person to be your mentor? Do you just ask them? When do you ask them? What if they say no? These are valid questions. Let’s break it down. Asking someone to be your mentor can take time. In my experience, I have not needed to ask them to be my mentor is just has happened. Over time, you develop a constant communication, and trust develops. It naturally progresses into a great mentor-mentee relationship. This does not happen in all cases. The question needs to be asked to set the relationship. I have had mentees sit down with me and in a formal setting ask me if I would be their mentor. It is that easy to ask. Assuming you did step one, step two should fall into place because you know that this person has a passion to help and stories to tell to inspire you.

Step three. How do you sustain a relationship with a mentor? When you have a mentor, ask them questions about problems you may have. Ask for advice you may need. This may help with the first couple of meetings and conversations. A mentor is not needed just once but should be sustained like any other type of relationship. Keep them in the loop about projects you may be working on or tests that you may have. They are always willing to listen and even give advice on how they approached similar situations. Another strategy to keep constant communication is meeting once a month and talking about a professional topic, such as a self-help book you may have read in career advancement. Even if I did not have time to read, I would reference topics based on HBR daily topics. Harvard Business Review has many excellent, professional self-help topics that can help you engage with your mentor.

I can not say that I have become successful all by myself. We are helped in many ways during our journey to the top. I have been led and continue to be led by many great people I call mentors.