Question: How do I find a professional mentor? – K.Robinson, Washington, DC

Answer: A mentor is an invaluable asset for any individual looking to learn the ropes and excel in a particular field, or break into another one. Having a professional mentor is a great way to get an “inside look” into the market, employment trends and more. Some tips on how to find your mentor match:

  1. Identify what you want from a mentor. What do you hope to gain from this relationship? What are your expectations and career aspirations? Are there specific concerns you hope to get some help addressing? Identifying what you want from the mentor-mentee relationship will aid you in your search, save time and energy, and also foster a rewarding relationship.
  2. This may sound obvious, but find a mentor in your field. If you are looking to make a career change, find a mentor in the one you’d like to transition to. You’ll gain the most insight from a person already in the field.
  3. Look outside the proverbial box. While the most convenient strategy is to look within your current workplace, great mentors abound in the community, nonprofit organizations and business associations—to name a few. Much like job-seeking, networking will only serve as a boon to your efforts.

Though finding a mentor may initially sound like a tall order, the benefits you (and even your mentor!) stand to reap are worth the search. Even if a potential mentor has to turn you down due to scheduling constraints or their workload, thank them for their time and see if they have a referral. It’s worth asking, and you might find the perfect mentor-mentee relationship this way!

Nurys Harrigan-Pedersen is president of Careers In Nonprofits, the experts in nonprofit staffing and recruiting with offices in Chicago and Washington, D.C.