Finding a mentor is like looking for the Perseid meteor shower in the city. It takes time, dedication and a bit of luck to see 1 falling star.
Like a stylish black blazer, mentors have become part of the must haves of the professional world. Mentors provide invaluable advice, connections, advocacy and strength. We are in the thick of on campus recruiting and the most frequent question I get from candidates is how does your firm assign mentors. I tell them, we have a formal program, but honestly, my mentors found me.
While there are hundreds of articles that talk about how to find a mentor, there are less that talk about how a mentor finds you. I am fortunate to have several mentors but the ones that have impacted my life the most are those who decided they would invest time in me not those who were told to invest time in me. These senior rain makers and influencers recognized the commitment I had to their clients and the firm at large. They recognized that my success would translate to success for others. No discussions were had about this wonderful development. It was not like in the movies where I was ushered into a corner office and told I had become the heir apparent.
It started with receiving more feedback (both positive and negative). It grew to invitations to events and emails suggesting I take certain actions. Eventually it peaked with positive endorsements and them knocking down doors. I acted quickly on every single suggestion given. Most challenging was accepting the criticism. I ruminated for days and a few times was inconsolable. Eventually the haze would clear and I would remind myself something an early mentor told me- If I did not care about your growth, I would never bother to say anything to you.
This is not to say that all it takes to get a mentor is to do good work and they will find you. I stepped up my game every project I could, actively finding ways to get in front and show everyone what I had to offer. I lost hours of sleep. I spent too many non-billable hours refining my process. I missed a few fun events in the name of professional growth. I did these things not because I was looking to attract a mentor but because I wanted to be great at what I do. I crave the happiness that comes from doing what you love well.
The great mentors are busy people and they will not waste time on someone who isn’t hustling for excellence. Mentors help those who can bring something to their mentors. Mentors help those who can bring something to others, be it the law firm at large, an alma mater or even a specific cause.
Mentors offer opportunities and inspiration. You should absolutely be on the lookout for them. Just remember mentors are on the lookout as well and you can actively take steps for them to find and choose you.