Today in the chart

The Value of Mentors—and How to Find Them

Learning is a lifelong process in every career, and mentoring can be a valuable component in continuing your education for years to come.

Learning is a lifelong process in every career, and mentoring can be valuable in continuing your education for years to come. But how do you know if you need a mentor? What qualities should you seek in a mentor, and how do you find one? 

What Is a Mentor?

A mentor offers insight, advice, wisdom, guidance, and any other perspectives you might need or seek, including things you didn’t know you needed to know. Mentors come in all forms, and there isn’t necessarily a single definition. After all, the word itself comes from the character of Mentor in Greek mythology. Mentor was a close friend of Odysseus, who fought in the Trojan War, and Athena appeared as Mentor to Odysseus’s son when he needed advice on dealing with all the men looking to marry his mother while his father was still trying to get home from the war. So Mentor was a friend to Odysseus but an advice-giver to his son, and in society today, mentors can fill both of those roles as well. 

Although Mentor in Greek mythology was much older than Odysseus’s son, your mentor doesn’t necessarily need to be older than you. They might be similar in age to you or even younger, especially if you entered your field later than they did. It also depends on what you want to learn. If one of your professional goals is to become more proficient at interacting on social media, someone half your age may be the best mentor for that job. Keep your mind and possibilities open when considering who might fit the bill for what you need.

Preparing To Find a Mentor

Some mentor-mentee relationships are formal, organized through an organization or program. Others are informal, growing out of work relationships, or professional networking in other settings. If you’re setting out to find a mentor, remember that finding the right person can sometimes take time. Often it’s not just a single individual who can provide your needs. In that case, consider what you can gain from multiple mentors in different areas or take a bit of wisdom from others more broadly. 

Also, remember that your mentor doesn’t necessarily need to have the same career as you. Some NPs have found mentorship from PAs and RNs, and vice versa, and even MDs and DOs can provide mentorship to NPs, PAs, and RNs, depending on the specialty and what you’re looking for in your professional growth. If you’re looking to move into administration, an administrator will likely be the best mentor. Finding a professor to guide you may be more helpful if you want to teach one day. 

How To Find a Mentor

There’s a wide range of ways to find mentors, and sometimes these relationships develop organically from serendipitous meetings or among coworkers. But if you’re explicitly setting out to find someone, here are some ideas.

Start Talking

Talk to preceptors from your clinical internships or rotations, especially those you could build relationships with during that rotation. See if they can serve as a mentor or if they have recommendations on who might.

Watch Others

Observe professionals in the field. This might mean colleagues at work, but if you’re looking to move in a different direction in your career, it might mean seeking out people already in that area and asking to shadow them. 

Social Media

Social media has a wealth of professional networking opportunities, though it can take time to find the right places to look and to build relationships. Facebook and LinkedIn have various groups specific to nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. Twitter is a more challenging landscape to navigate but has recently begun rolling out communities that may become water-cooler-like opportunities for discussions among professionals, and sometimes one-hour chats are held on different topics. For example, the International Family Nursing Association hosts occasional Twitter Chats, as does #NPChat.

Internet Sources

Aside from social media, many other online resources offer mentoring opportunities, such as and for nurses, Physician Assistant Mentor Online for PAs, and for NPs. 

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations often offer formal mentoring programs, such as the one at the Nurse Practitioner Association in New York State, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners’ career enrichment program with one-on-one mentorship, and the Johnson & Johnson program to connect mentors and mentees. If you’re in higher education administration, check out the virtual mentor program for deans at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Check with your local, state, and national professional organizations and your former schools to see if they have programs for you.


Network, network, network! This one may feel more intimidating for introverts or those who aren’t sure where to start, but sometimes just talking to colleagues and supervisors about what you want can eventually lead you to the right person. Talk to the lead nurse, other supervisors at your facility, or even your human resources department to see if they have suggestions. Talk with friends at other facilities, attend professional conventions and meetings (online or in-person), and look for continuing education enrichment opportunities where you might meet others with similar goals or with your experience. Talk to speakers at events or reach out to them afterward. If you struggle to initiate conversations with people, consider volunteering at some of these events, which forces you to interact with others with a purpose and can make it easier to start a conversation.

Again, there’s no one way to find a mentor; whether it’s formal or informal, it may take time to find the person or people you find most helpful. Often mentor-mentee relationships can work both ways: perhaps you learn about administration from someone who you then mentor on social media. Sometimes a mentoring relationship comes to a natural end, and other times it can last a lifetime. Have patience, keep your options, mind, and heart open, and you’ll find who and what you need.

Subscribe to our M-F newsletter
Thank you for subscribing! Welcome to The Nursing Beat!
Please enter your email address