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Cynthia Good Answers YOUR Email!

By Cynthia Good

Linda B. of Samica Bags asks: “Where are good places to find mentors besides local ‘chamber of commerce’–type events?”

Cynthia Good replies:

An effective long-term mentor-protégé relationship doesn’t happen overnight, because like a close friendship it’s composed of two people who genuinely respect and care for one another. That takes time. But you can take steps to meet the right person so that a valuable relationship might follow.

First, who would be your “dream mentor”? What kind of skills and career wisdom do you hope to learn from this person, and who would have the perfect combination of experience and insight – and a willingness to share – to match your ambition?

Once you have an ideal mentor in mind, the first places you should look are close to home. Is there an executive in your own company, perhaps in another division or department, whom you admire? Or do you have a former boss you like and respect who would take a personal interest in your career now?

Outside of your familiar surroundings, you may also find excellent role models wherever business professionals come together with common interests and a desire to learn and give back. Locally, that might be your chamber of commerce, as you suggest. But it could also be a regional or national group. Join an industry association and attend a national or regional meeting if you can. Volunteer for association projects or committees so you can interact with a variety of industry decision-makers and watch them at work. Also check out any mentoring programs that might be available through your alma mater’s alumni association or career placement office. Many universities have formal networks in place to help alumni well into their careers.

Finally, once you’re ready to approach someone, let that person know how amazing you think he or she is, and how much you would value a few minutes of his or her time. If a first meeting over lunch or coffee goes well, it could turn into a regular meeting every month or quarter. Just remember that it has to be a mutual relationship where both individuals give willingly and take away something that enriches her career or life.

Questions? Comments? BigIdeaCES@CNBC.com