In this life, we all have many things that we wish to accomplish at work. Whether it’s figuring out that tough political situation in order to get a promotion, or needing a pep talk before a big presentation, there are hurdles to overcome to make accomplishments. While it’d be amazing to have all of the answers at every turn in your career – that would just be too easy.

Figuring it all out is just a part of the career journey. We all face a fork in the road and spend weeks deciding where to go and what to do. It’s normal to dance around decisions and make ones that in hindsight, you would have done differently.

If you play it right, though, an element of that hindsight can be manufactured without actually living it. It’s called consulting a mentor – a great lifeline.

And surprisingly, not enough people are using this lifeline as they navigate their careers. I’ve spent hours and hours talking with hundreds of thousands of Levo women around the globe about this very topic and have learned that many people haven’t even secured someone to call. When I ask any group, “who has a mentor,” only a few hands go up. When I ask why this is the case, the typical response is, “I don’t even know where to begin.”

If you’re feeling the same way, then begin here:

1. Know what you want

The best advice I was ever given about mentors is that they are not your “fairy godmothers.” They are not here to listen to all of your problems and sprinkle some sparkly dust that instantly makes everything okay. You need to know what guidance you want. 

Before you go looking for a mentor, you need to write out exactly what support you’re seeking. Perhaps it’s someone to coach you into being a better speaker, maybe it’s someone to teach you about technology, how to be a better manager, or perhaps you’re looking for access to individuals in a certain field. Zero in on the areas of development that you’d like for a future mentor to coach you on and remember, they will only be as effective as you allow them to be.

2. Create a mentor wish list

Once you understand your own professional needs, write down everyone you know who could support you in one of these areas. Consider old professors, someone you heard speak at a panel, a connection on LinkedIn, a manager in your company, one of the amazing mentors on Levo and all your family friends. List anyone who could possibly help you overcome challenges and better your career.

3. Make an ask

Many years ago, I first learned of Rosa Gatti, who at the time, was one of the highest ranked women in sports TV and a dream person to know as a young college student pursuing a career in that field. When I told my dad about how I wanted to find a way to get in touch with her and knowing that it was a long shot, he reminded me that, “the worst she can say is no.”

Many on your list might say no, or even not respond, but the one meant for your path will say yes. Thankfully, Rosa responded to that email, which led to a phone call, which led to the opportunity to work for her team during my dream internship. 

Make it easy for someone on that list of yours to say yes to your first meeting and to enjoy the second. Tell them why they are the one you’re reaching out to. Tiffany Dufu, Levo’s Chief Leadership Officer and a personal mentor of mine recently mentioned that an amazing way to get the attention of someone is to explain the value you’re trying to add to an organization or the world and how their specific skill set can help you achieve that. 

Remember, no mentor wants their brain picked. They want a specific opportunity to add value. 

4. Come prepared

When you do get a “yes,” make it is a wonderful experience for both of you. Remember that having a mentor is like having a relationship. Just because you go on one date doesn’t mean that this is your new boyfriend/girlfriend. And you rarely start the date with heavy hitting questions and needs. 

Get to know your mentor as a human in those first moments. Listen. Let the conversation flow and then begin to give context with why you asked them to that meeting or phone call. Explain your own story and what they can specifically provide you based on your understanding of their experience.

5. Follow up!

Kelly Hoey, listed in Forbes as one of five women changing the world of VC/Entrepreneurship and someone that I include in my own treasure chest of advisors, has always emphasized the importance of following up with a mentor on how their advice affected you. Whether it was two days or two months later, you repay a mentor by taking three minutes to let them know the outcomes that their leadership had.

And as always, reach out to leaders and mentors in your network when they achieve milestones of their own. Whether that’s speaking at a recent conference, or publishing a new article on LinkedIn, set a Google Alert so that you never miss an opportunity to drop in without always having a need.

No matter where you are in your career, a mentor can push and lead you to the next level. They can open doors, help you through challenges and make your entire experience a more manageable one. You don’t have to go through this professional journey on your own. There are people, mentors, here to help if you take the time to thoughtfully build a relationship with one. 

Maxie McCoy

Maxie McCoy is the voice and red-hair behind Maxie, the lifestyle blog where you'll find plenty of "me too!" moments.

As the Director of Local Levo for Levo League, Maxie oversees 30 cities globally focused on elevating the careers of women. She's also author of “Less Work, More Money,” an Amazon best seller written for the entrepreneur at heart. Follow Maxie on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Maxie is a part of The Opener, an exclusive, invite-only contributor network that will bring the best food, culture and innovation writing to the pages of Coca-Cola Journey.