Whether you’re just embarking on a career or making a big transition, it’s essential to connect with an established professional who can show you how it’s done—and help you avoid making critical mistakes.
“Search for mentors in your existing network,” advises Blair. “If that doesn’t work, find someone within your industry by reading books, articles, and interviews. Suggest a quick meeting over coffee, or 15 minutes of their time on the phone. Ask targeted questions to show you’ve done your homework.” For example, you wouldn’t ask Michael Jordan how to be a successful basketball player, you’d ask him to talk about a specific technique he used for acing slam-dunks from the free-throw line.
Once you have a mentor, don’t use him or her only for job leads. All successful people have systems of created behaviors, from the way they greet somebody new to the way they end a phone call. Observe your mentor’s behaviors, and use them to create your own system. Also remember that mentorship is a two-way street. Consider what value you’re going to add to your mentor’s life in exchange for his or her guidance.