Tip #1: Don't Search Just One Aisle, Search the Store.
I moved recently and now I have no idea how stores are mapped out in my area. I am usually that person who asks where I can find the "towels" or "rice cooker" or anything else for that matter and more often than not I am looking in the wrong place completely. When it comes to mentorship many of us assume there are clear cut mentor tracks where we all could and should find our perfect mentors but often the real situation is quite the contrary. I have met professionals who met their mentors in a multitude of ways from high ranking speaking engagements to church services or even Mary Kay parties. Mentors are not specimens to be confined to certain professional or upper class environments but they are people like you and I whose interests and circles spread beyond the boardroom. We have limited our searches to one aisle and miss the opportunity the other 16 aisles could have provided. Don't dismiss the next poetry slam or Jill Scott concert or MLK Walk you attend as a loss because these places can be just as mentor rich as a conference or meeting. You can optimize your search for a quality mentor by increasing the scope of your search and you will find that the pool of quality mentors out there is far deeper than you expected.
While looking for your mentor in a variety of places optimizes the volume of possible mentors you can meet, this second tip will help you narrow down your choices. It is funny how many shoppers leave the mall with bags full of new items yet come home to find that a shirt didn't match, curtains didn't fit, and that DVD wasn't as good as we hoped it would be. For example, if you feel as if your experience as a minority female plays a significant role in how you are able to achieve success then choosing a Caucasian mentor, no matter how successful he/she is, may or may not feed you in the aspects you are looking for. Making sure a mentor "fits" is a great tactic many of us overlook. When we look for mentors we look at their success and not necessarily our success with them. The most ferocious tiger in the jungle cannot teach a toucan a thing about being a bird so it is critical we choose mentors that can teach us about our fields and the way in which we thrive in them. If you want a mentor that you can call anytime, a mentor who travels or has a hectic schedule may not be ideal for you despite their qualifications. If you are seking to work in the theatre circuit, a mentor who has never been to the theatre may not have the perspective you need despite their tremendous skill. Consider not only the quality of the "shirt" you shop for but consider also the way in which that "shirt" can complement the rest of your wardrobe so that you won't have to consider returning your mentor...I mean your "shirt" later.