By Louis Whitehead

When we’re little, we look to our parents and to other adults for guidance and help in learning how to survive in the world. In other words, we rely on others to teach us what we need to know to get through life.

We go through many changes as we grow to adulthood. We get bigger and stronger, develop relationships with others, go to school, and move on to careers and to the rest of our lives.

We need examples

No matter how much we grow or change, one aspect of our beings remains the same. We all still look to those who have come before us to serve as good examples. As young professionals, we seek out mentors.

But, as with everything in life, we need to make good decisions and choices in selecting the people we want to emulate. A good mentor can make a world of difference in how we succeed and progress in our careers.

How mentoring works

Keep in mind that mentors can serve a variety of purposes. They may offer us advice and guidance in

getting ahead in the world, and also give us encouragement and even push us when we need a gentle shove. They also may simply lend us their ears when we need to talk with someone.

It’s also important to remember that not all mentoring occurs through face-to-face interaction; it can also take place through other media such as telephone conversations and email.

Tips for choosing a mentor

Here are some guidelines and tips that can help you find a good mentor.

Finding a Mentor Online

Think about your needs and what you’d like your mentor to do for you

It’s important to consider the types of services that you want your prospective mentor to provide. Again, services can relate to both the professional and personal realms.

You may want your mentor to offer advice on subjects such as continuing education and advancing your career. A good mentor may also be able to help you with networking and making connections with others in your field who might help you.

Or, you may want your mentor only to listen to you and offer advice when you need to visit with someone neutral.

Think about and list possible mentors

It’s important to consider all possibilities when it comes to mentors. A person you may not have thought of originally may turn out to be the mentor of your dreams.

Keep an open mind in matching your needs to a prospective mentor. He or she may be able to help you in ways you hadn’t planned for or didn’t expect.

Your circle of friends and family represent a good starting point in the search for mentors. From there, expand your search to include teachers, leaders of groups to which you belong, spiritual or religious leaders, and other significant people in your life.

Decide how you will approach the prospective mentor(s)

Think about how you want to approach and ask people to mentor you. Learning about the people you want to ask first can help prepare you to ask for guidance and assistance.

Depending upon your comfort level and the relationship that you may already have with a potential mentor, you can either make your request via telephone or email. Another approach might involve setting up a meeting where the two of you can sit down and discuss your wants and needs. An informal drop-in meeting may work, too.

Ask the person to be your mentor

When the time comes to actually ask someone to mentor you, it’s a good idea to explain why you selected the person as a potential mentor and how you would like the person to help you, as well as. From there, ask the person to mentor you or to help you find another mentor.

Through the entire process of searching and asking, always be prepared for your prospect to turn you down. If this happens, don’t take it personally. The person likely has other responsibilities that would stand in the way of being a good mentor.

If you are turned down, always remember to thank the person. Above all, don’t give up in your search for a mentor.

Be patient

Like all worthwhile pursuits, finding a mentor takes some work and even involves some risk. You’ll find, though, that the benefits that you can reap from a relationship with a good mentor will be well worth the effort you put into your search. Good luck, and happy hunting.


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Louis Whitehead is a graduate student at South Dakota State University and a frequent contributor to National Native News. He has also written for publications such as Bowlers Journal International, Indian Country Today, the Lakota Journal, and Ikce Wicasta.

Whitehead is a descendant of many nations, including those of the Anishinaabe, Mohawk, and Miami peoples, and lives in Brookings, South Dakota. He is a leukemia and bone marrow transplant survivor, and indulges his love of music, cars, travel, computers and technology, and volunteering in his spare time. is committed to presenting diverse points of view. However, the viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at IMD.