If you’re like most working professionals, this is one of the first pieces of advice you heard around college graduation or upon landing your first job. (Stressed out at work? Get a mentor. Not sure how to navigate office politics? Get a mentor. Want to know whether going to grad school or switching careers is the right option for you? Get a mentor. Ad nauseum.)
But whether you received this advice from one of your professors, your mom, your neighbor, or a co-worker, finding a mentor is a lot easier said than done. (It’s not only hard to locate someone with the professional chops and time to help you out, it can be even harder for some people to ask for help in the first place.) And how do you know whether the mentor you do eventually hook up with is the right person to help you with your current challenges, let alone professional issues you encounter five or ten years from now?
Here’s the thing—you don’t.