Here's the only guide you'll ever need to all things mentoring:

3 ways to tell if you need a mentor

You want to succeed

"If you want to be the best in your capacity in anything, you need a mentor. If you want to be a better speaker, if you want to be your best self or better at networking, if you want to get better at one of your hobbies - anything," says Shivani Gopal, founder of The Remarkable Woman.

You are at a crossroad

Not everyone has a clear vision for their career - heck, a lot of us don't even know what career we want. In fact, it can be a real jungle out there. "If you're looking for a way to create a vision you're really passionate about then you need a mentor," says Suzi Dafnis, CEO of online mentoring program HerBusiness.

You feel like you're stagnating

"If you're at a very comfortable position right now, then you need a mentor so that you can get uncomfortable, because growth comes from being uncomfortable," says Shivani.

But first, what is a mentor?

It's easy to confuse your work BFF, your IRL BFF or even your mum for your mentor, but in a professional sense a mentor is much more than just a sounding board, advisor or life coach (though they are all those things too).

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"A mentor is someone who has the skills and experience to be able to guide you critically," says Shivani.

"It's someone who is more experienced than you are, someone who holds a much more senior role, not necessarily in the same industry or company as you, but certainly someone who can critically advise you and actually challenge your actions. They help you better plan your goals and make sure your goals are aligned with what it is you're looking for in life, help you re-prioritise, help you understand what your strengths are and also understand the traits that don't serve you well. Basically, if you want to climb that career ladder, a mentor is your golden ticket to getting there," she adds.

A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.
Oprah Winfrey

How to find a professional mentor

It's as easy as one, two, success!

1. Get started

Figure out what you want 

"You need to know what it is that you want, out of life, out of your next five years," says The Remarkable Woman's Shivani. What are your strengths? Your weaknesses? Where do you want your career to go? What are your short-term and long-term goals? All the questions!

Look at your options 

"Let your peers know you're looking for a mentor," says Suzi, CEO of online mentoring program HerBusiness.

Do your homework 

Once you find potential mentors, do some extra research to ensure they're the right fit for you. What career path did they take? What type of industry connections do they have? A lot of this can be found on LinkedIn, Google or by speaking to mutual connections.

2. make contact

Send praise 

"Don't go straight in and ask, 'Hey can you please be my mentor?' says Shivani. "Introduce yourself and start by citing some things that they've done (acknowledging an insightful blog post or career accomplishment) to show that what's important to them is important to you."

Meet them 

"I would love to meet with you for 20 minutes and pick your brains for advice on how I could achieve some of the wonderful things you have done", says Shivani. 'When you show interest, generally, people will say yes. If they're not in the same city as you, suggest a Skype meeting."

Tell them what you want 

It's always scary to put yourself out there, but it's important to be upfront about your intentions. Dafnis says, "Tell them that you admire the work they are doing and that you're looking to expand your skills. Then simply say, 'I was wondering if you would be willing to mentor me?'"

3. maintain contact

Be consistent 

You and your mentor need to agree on short-term and long-term goals to help build a clear picture of the mentorship objectives. Gopal suggests meeting once a fortnight for at least an hour. This ensures you keep working towards your set targets and stay on track.

Avoid putting on the pressure 

Be wary of the fact mentors have their own obligations and careers, so be understanding of their busy schedules by not hounding them. Send a friendly email to say you know they're swamped, but you'd love to meet up when things are less hectic for them.

Reciprocate 

When you come across good articles or content related to your mentor's interests, send it to them. Mentorships are two-way streets, mentors are just as interested as learning from you as you are in learning from them, so share your successes and new findings.

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Show me a successful individual and I'll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don't care what you do for a living - if you do it well I'm sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.
Denzel Washington

Already got a mentor?

You can never have too many. No, really, you can have different mentors for different facets of your life. Plus, there's no such thing as too much knowledge, amiright?

"I have many mentors," says Gopal. "Don't just limit yourself to one. At a bare minimum you should have two mentors - one inside your company and one outside - and then from there you will start to naturally find more mentors. It may just be that you find a mentor that really helps you open up when it comes to networking, you may find one that really helps you with your presentation skills and you may find a generalist mentor who helps you to be the best you can be."

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So, you want to be a mentor?

As mentioned, it's not just mentees who gain a wealth of knowledge from a mentor relationship - it's just as rewarding for the mentor. But what makes a great mentor? Gopal lets us in on some secrets.

Be generous - You need to be really giving of your time, your skills, your experience and your expertise. A good mentor has vested interest.

Be selfless - You need to have the mentee's best interests at heart. It's vital that you remain objective and keep their goals front of mind.

Learn 'A good mentor understands that they have just as much to learn from the mentee as the mentee has to learn from the mentor, and that's where you have this really open, dynamic, two-sided conversation.'

Criticise - A good mentor isn't afraid to critically analyse and give you improvement feedback often and wherever needed. Don't be afraid to make them uncomfortable - that's where they grow.

Celebrate - Recognise achievements, not so much by clinking champagne, but saying, "You've done it, well done”. It's important to acknowledge how far we've come. Now, go forth and spread success.

Credit: bauersyndication.com.au/MagazineFeatures.co.za

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