Anyone who's had an amazing work mentor can tell you how it's changed her career for the better. But not all offices offer them, and cold-messaging a stranger whose trajectory you admire can come off a little spam-y.
Sensing a need in the marketplace, LinkedIn just announced they're testing a new dating-esque feature that matches willing mentors with mentees, based on factors like industry, location and what type of advice you'd like.
Once you fill out your preferences, LinkedIn's algorithm will send you matches each week, much like a dating site. LinkedIn execs say the service should expand beyond a small group of premium members by the end of the summer.
Whichever way you get matched, you should know what to expect from a mentorship. Here are a few tips that can help you start on the right foot, whether you're getting advice online or IRL.
Find someone who has gone through what you're going through. You might admire someone who's been an entrepreneur or worked in startups their whole career, but if what you really want help with is moving up the ladder at a big corporation, you should seek out someone who has had that career trajectory.
Set expectations on frequency and type of contact. Not all mentors will be available to talk to you every week, or be willing to meet you at a restaurant for an hour-long lunch. Perhaps you just need someone whom you can call whenever you face a big career decision. Or maybe you want someone who's available for a quick coffee once or twice a year to make sure you're making the right job moves. Just be upfront about what it is you're looking for, and see if the mentor is amenable to that. The best mentorships are the ones you will keep as you grow in your career, but you also need to be respectful of a mentor's time.
Don't expect your mentor to find your next job. Sure, there's always the chance that your mentor knows someone who knows someone who needs to fill exactly the type of job you're looking for. But mentors are mostly there for advice — they aren't your personal headhunters. If you're looking for someone who will take direct action on your behalf, what you might actually be looking for is a sponsor: a higher-up within your organization who knows your work and can advocate for your next raise or big assignment.