1. A mentor is someone who helps you succeed. Most of the time, a mentor comes from our own field (in the movies, it is an older person who has done it all, seen it all, and is often sad, but that is another story), has experience, has seen success and advises you through the hoops and turns of your career. Hopefully, unlike the movies where the lead initially doesn't get along well with the mentor, you both will get along fine right off the bat. Whoever you choose, pick someone you can meet in person easily, and talk to face to face.
2. The arrangement: Most of the time the mentor will help you for free, (in the movies, they see their younger self in the lead and just want the person to succeed where they failed). But in real life, mentors will like to help your case if you the odd jobs for them (in the movies, it is running errands).
3. The reality: Not everyone has the time or the opportunity to be a good mentor. People with update industry experience are already busy or unavailable. Often, some manager you have worked with in past, or some helpful friend who ahs more years in the industry than you, will guide you when you need. But you got to ask first and let them know how you value their experience.
4. You will help your case if you tell the mentor what exactly you are looking for, not some general/vague stuff like 'I want to be great', but something like, 'I want to finish this project on time, under budget and make it a success' (this may be asking too much but you get the point about being specific). Another good example: 'I am trying to do x which you also did, and wanted to pick your brain on topic y'
5. Many times, the person you want to be your mentor, may have agreed to do it out of politeness sake, but you have to let go of this mentor when you see the person getting annoyed at your emails and calls.
6. When the mentor gives you advice, make sure you take it, and when you're not sure what you should talk about, ask them what you should be asking them. Show them how well you are following their lead, this will also please the mentor.
7. Friends as mentors: This is where the most mentoring happens in real life. Friends with more experience, or with experience in other fields helping out each other with professional advice, and healthy 'give and take' goes on. Most of the time, the helping friends also improve their professional network this way.
8. Younger mentors for older workers: Companies hire younger people a lot, to keep costs down, and younger people tend to be more tech-savvy. If you are smart, you will adapt with the changing times, and can even seek out a younger mentor who will help you stay in touch with the changing industry, showing you how things have said, what you can do about it. It may be a humbling experience but knowledge humbles the best of us. You will take peace in the fact that you can 'reverse mentor' and share your relevant work/life experience with the younger person. It is also a fact that most of the recruiters (at least the front line people) tend to be younger.
Thank you for reading.
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