Without putting the cart before the horse here, we obviously believe that a mentor relationship is crucial to both career and personal growth. This isn’t to say that these things can’t happen without it, but we believe that an intentional relationship with those that have walked your path before you is one huge way to accelerate your success, both personally and professionally.

Most professionals in America agree that a strong mentor relationship is crucial, yet fewer than half are reaping the benefits. In a study conducted last year, researchers at Olivet Nazarene University determined that although 76% of Americans believe that having a mentor is important, only 37% claim to have that relationship.

According to the study, more than half of reported mentor-mentee relationships developed naturally, and 25% resulted from the mentor offering to coach the mentee, meaning that only 5% of American professionals have a mentor as a result of approaching someone they felt was qualified to become a fortifying force in their professional lives.

There are plenty of reasons someone would hold off on approaching someone to be a mentor - those of us whose personalities skew towards the introverted can have a hard time approaching someone out of the blue and asking to form such an important personal bond. Those who are extroverts can have a hard time slowing down enough to establish a deeper relationship with a mentor figure.

No matter where your personality or motivations lie, there are a few universal truths to keep in mind when establishing these crucial relationships.

Be Bold

This is your career, your life, your growth. The only person who is going to steward your development carefully and thoughtfully over the long term is you. So when you take the steps forward to grow intentionally, stride with purpose. Be bold in your ambitions. Identify those whose paths you want to follow and make yourself known to them. Be clear in your intentions and ambitious in your plans.

Be Humble

While you should be bold and ambitious when it comes to laying out your future, it’s equally important to be humble in the face of the successes that have come before you. Your desire for greatness does not in and of itself make you great, and a lack of humility can and often does have the opposite effect. Understand that your goals are a process, and that the most sustainable growth is not always the fastest.

Be Ready

The thing that can kill a mentor relationship faster than anything else is a lack of preparation. If you want someone to help lead you down a similar path to theirs, make sure you’re ready to follow. Take a long look at where you are personally and professionally and ask yourself if you’re ready to take the next step. If you are, great! Take the next steps. If the answer is no, that’s great too. Identify what you need to do in order to get to that place. Don’t worry about getting too far ahead - over-preparedness never stopped anyone from succeeding.