Do you have a professional goal, but are not sure how to reach it? Do you want someone who just believes in your abilities and reminds you of your professional strengths? As a nurse, a mentor can help you get through times when you feel stuck. A successful mentoring relationship can help you define your goals and set you on the right path to meeting them.

The advice and wisdom a more experienced nurse can offer are invaluable. A 2010 Institute of Medicine report went so far as to recommend nursing associations make mentoring and leadership building programs available to all members. For minority nurses especially, a mentoring relationship has far-reaching benefits. Mentors of all ethnicities can recruit and retain a diverse nursing population, which helps their careers and enriches patient care.

Different people have varying strengths and qualities to offer, so having many mentors is encouraged. One might give you career guidance and walk you through any sticky work situations (negotiating a salary or moving to the next level, for instance) while another can give you practical advice on reaching your education goals.

The best mentoring relationship is one that is built on mutual respect and trust and is taken seriously by both parties.

Do you not have a mentor, but would welcome one? If you are lucky, your workplace might offer a formal mentor/mentee connection. If not, you have to take the first step.

First, reflect on your ideal mentoring relationship. What do you hope to get from a mentor? Then, find someone in your field you admire and would like to emulate. Is it your nurse manager respected for her knowledge? A professor who is always on top of the latest research? A neighbor who advocates for nurses? A coworker who balances work and family successfully?

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Once you have decided, plan your approach. Explain that you admire your potential mentor’s qualities (mention what they are!) and that you would like to learn more about their successes. Then take the leap and ask if they would mentor you. Although you might be nervous, they will likely be flattered.

Set up a meeting time every couple of weeks or every month. Understand if they do not have a lot of time to devote to mentoring, and be sure to respect the time they give you.

Following a few guidelines will lead to a more successful mentoring experience. You never want your mentor to feel pressured by you, so don’t ask them for a job. Think of your meetings as essential – be on time and don’t cancel.

Consider your mentor as someone who can spark your imagination, help you set and achieve new goals, and cheer on your successes.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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