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Here’s Why It’s So Hard to Find a Good Mentor

March 10, 2016, 4:00 AM UTC
Photograph by Andy Roberts via Getty Images

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you find a mentor? is written by Camille Preston, founder of
AIM Leadership.

At all stages of one’s career, mentors play an important role. Unfortunately, for many people, finding a great mentor remains a challenge. This is largely due to the fact that we often fail to recognize mentors when we encounter them. The first step to not letting great mentors get away is to ask better questions. Yes, it is as simple as that—ask better questions. Believe it or not, you are already surrounded by mentors. This is because everyone has something unique to teach you. So the real question is this—what do you want to learn? If you’re not sure what you want to learn, look around and take notice. Who is doing something better, faster, or with greater ease? What can you learn from these people?

This brings us to the next question—what can you share or give to this person? All too often we assume that mentoring is a hierarchical and unidirectional relationship. Over the course of my career, I have found the most effective mentor collaborations are bi-directional. First, you must be aware of the skills you have to share (trust me, you probably have a lot more to share than you think). If you have any doubt, simply look in the mirror and ask yourself, “What can you share with others?” Second, get to know your ideal mentor. Find out what is important to them, what they are working on, and how you can help them reach these goals.

See also: 4 Tips to Help You Find a Great Mentor

Years ago, I met Ivy Ross, currently at VP at (GOOGL) Google, at a lunch in Cartegana, Columbia. Ivy instantly mesmerized me. She exhibits a unique, powerful creative leadership style. I admired the way she built teams, approached design, and tackled innovation. The more I learned about her, the more I knew she would be a great mentor. Over time, I nurtured our friendship by sharing nuggets that I thought would be of interest and value to Ivy. I looked for commonalities. I also looked for relationships that might interest Ivy (she is now serving on the board of a connection I introduced her to). I also made it a priority to spend time with her. Most importantly, I did whatever I could to make spending time with me easy for her.

Mentorships are bound to fail if they become draining for the mentor. Reciprocity needs to be at the core of the relationship. With Ivy, a chance lunch encounter blossomed into a deep, reciprocal mentorship. Even though we have never worked together and live over 2,000 miles apart, our relationship continues to grow.