Are you looking to get better at what you do? Perhaps you’re hoping for a promotion this year, or for something bigger down a longer-term career path. There are a few different ways to approach it. You could, as most people do, just wing it. Learn by trial and error, and hope that your patience is greater than your learning curve. You could, as most successful people do, set yourself on a continuous learning program through reading, attending seminars & workshops, etc. Or you could follow the path of those who are truly serious about their success, and augment your continuous learning program with a mentor.

A mentor is an individual you respect, and who excels in the skills and disciplines you are seeking to develop. He is a guide, a voice of reason, a motivator and a friendly ear. A mentor is an invaluable asset in virtually every aspect of your career.

How do you get a mentor? There are a lot of factors – but here are the basics:

1. Decide what you need

Have a clear idea as to what you think you would like to achieve, and the skills and direction you think you might need to get you there.

2. Look for the best

Don’t just look for someone you can easily contact. You want to learn from the best. As a rule, try not to choose someone from your own company, because it could be misperceived as trying to curry favor.

3. Contact him

If the person is at a senior level – CEO, President, Vice President – it may take a while to get hold of him. But don’t give up! One of the common characteristics of the most successful senior executives is that they actually answer their phone when it rings, and return the calls they miss.

4. Be concise and precise

Make sure you have pre planned your request before you call – write it down. Let him know why you selected him specifically (a little flattery can go a long way). Make sure that you accurately quantify the commitment you are asking for. 15 minutes a month at the Mentor’s convenience is a good start.

5. Be prepared

Make sure that you are thoroughly prepared before every meeting. Your mentor won’t appreciate you wasting his time.

6. Listen

There’s no point in getting guidance from an expert, then avoiding it! Pay attention and heed the advice, or you’ll be wasting everyone’s time.

7. Give progress reports

Whenever you have progress, make sure you let your Mentor know. He will greatly appreciate knowing that he’s making a positive difference.

8. Thank him

Don’t forget to express your thanks for his time and efforts. Mentors, like the rest of us, like to be acknowledged for their efforts.

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