How to find an amazing mentor: getting started!

  • Hannah Picton

    Hannah Picton

    Assistant Programme Manager, International Development and Education & Skills team

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At all stages of life, being able to speak to someone who can give you advice and support is really important. Friends and family can be fantastic, but it can also be really helpful to find someone who has more experience in the subject or career path you’re interested in and who is willing to provide you with some guidance. This person is often commonly referred to as a mentor. 

A mentor is there to provide you with tips and help around learning, work and, ultimately, your career path.

They can help you to start thinking ahead about your future and what your goals might be and advise you on how best to plan for the future to achieve those goals. This is often not through telling you exactly what to do but they can help you figure out where you want to go. 

Mentors can also provide you with valuable information and insights. They can take more of an unbiased approach to your skills, providing constructive feedback on where your weaknesses might be and helping you to work on them. Also , and perhaps most importantly, they can help to introduce you to other people in the area you’re interested in, potentially opening doors that lead to new opportunities.

Mentors can provide the encouragement to keep going that often we need at points in our lives, acting as our personal ‘cheerleaders’! 

It can be helpful to know what to look for in a mentor, here are our top tips! 

  • Experience – a mentor should have some experience (remember expertise can be both academic and lived experience!) in the area that you’re interested in learning more about or be able to direct you to resources that could help. 
  • A good listener – a good mentor will be an active listener which means they will take on board what you are saying without interrupting you and their responses will be relevant. 
  • Enthusiasm – this is really important, they need to not only have experience but also be really interested in sharing it with others. 
  • Trustworthy – as you’ll go to your mentor for challenges you’re facing, you need to be able to rely on them to not only provide good guidance but also keep your confidence. 
  • Honesty – a good mentor is someone who will challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone, so it’s important that they can be honest with you. 

We also know that it can challenging to find a mentor, especially when you are young and perhaps don’t have the connections or networks that an older person might have. Below are some organisations which might be able to help: 

Remember – when looking for a mentor, always speak to your parent, guardians and/or teachers, as they will be able to support you to find someone suitable. Always use recognised organisations, like the ones below!

If you have been connected to a mentor already, perhaps through one of the above organisations or through your school, the first meeting can be a bit daunting and you might be worried about how to start the conversation. To help facilitate this kick-off meeting, we’ve listed some questions to ask your mentor:

  • What have been their experiences so far? 
  • What are some highlights? 
  • What are some challenges they’ve faced, and how have they overcome them? 
  • What advice do they wish they’d been given when starting out? 
  • Is there anything they would have done differently? 

If you’re taking part in a mentorship scheme through a youth group or your school and know you’ll be meeting regularly with your mentor then this can give you an opportunity to ask about specific situations or challenges you’re facing. You’ll be able to ask them questions such as: 

  • How did you deal with a similar situation? 
  • Are there other ways of looking at this? 
  • What can I learn from this experience? 
  • What do you think are my strengths? 
  • What do you think I could do differently? 
  • Is there anyone you know that you would recommend I should speak to about this? 

An important step before any meetings with your mentor is preparation – come with some ideas of what you want to talk about so you get the most of the time you have with them!