How to find a mentor

Q: Last month, you wrote about the importance of finding a mentor. What should I look for in a mentor, and what should I know about mentor/mentee relationships?

A mentor may be anybody whose professional life you admire and hold in high esteem, said Lisa Terrizzi, career coach and consultant and chair of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Lawyers in Transition Committee.

The best mentoring relationships tend to evolve naturally over time, and they tend to manifest when people are involved in joint endeavors that are important to them. So, you may find quality mentors when you’re invested in a project and working alongside more senior lawyers, Terrizzi said. For example, a case or project that’s overseen by a clinical professor, or a charity project on which you collaborate with members of a local bar association.

Look for a mentor who has expertise and experience in your area of interest. But more importantly, look for someone whose values, work ethic and temperament match yours, Terrizzi said. It’s essential not only to have “professional chemistry” in a mentoring relationship, but also to take advice from someone whose advice you actually trust — and recognize when you may be receiving bad advice, which you need to disregard.

Also recognize that a professional mentoring relationship is just that — a professional relationship. While the relationship may eventually evolve into a true professional friendship, as a mentee you should avoid over-sharing personal information. Present yourself as a young professional who has value to contribute to the mentoring relationship.