Ask anyone what the key to success is and chances are they’ll tell you that finding a mentor helped catapult their career from the little league to the big stage. The mentor-mentee relationship is regarded as critical for both parties. For the mentor, it’s an act of service and giving back to aspiring leaders. For mentees, it’s a rich ground for learning the secrets to success. Like all relationships, finding the perfect person is not always easy. Keep reading to learn all about finding a mentor and establishing a relationship for success.
What is a mentor?
A mentor is defined as a counselor or a guide. This is someone who offers you support, gives advice, and provides guidance in either your personal life or in your career growth and development. A mentor will invest their time, energy, and resources to get to know you and walk with you through the stages and challenges you face. As your mentor, they will use their own experiences, lessons learned, and wisdom gained to help you overcome these challenges and grow into the best version of yourself.
The benefits of having a good mentor
The reason why mentorship is so highly regarded by successful people is because of the many benefits it brings to the life and career of a mentee.
- Access. When you have a mentor, you have front row access to an inspiring mind who has the knowledge and experience of the world you want to navigate. A mentor has access to information, contacts and networks that can otherwise be difficult to get to.
- New perspectives. A mentor provides you with a new way of looking at problems and dealing with issues. From their experience, they can offer fresh perspectives and offer insights into career challenges and solutions. It’s like you’ve travelled the world, without getting on the plane.
- Leadership. As a mentee, you reap from the wells of wisdom and sit under someone with valuable leadership qualities. Through their guidance, you will hone your leadership skills and are better able to take on roles, tasks, and responsibilities you may have missed – and carry them well.
- Network. Another benefit of having a mentor is that through their networks, you can build and grow your own connections and build relationships with key thought leaders, decision-makers, and professionals in the industry that will help you reach your goals.
As they sharpen and mould you into becoming your best self, you too, as a mentee, enrich the life of a mentor by giving them the opportunity to lead and create an environment where others can grow and flourish.
Qualities of a good mentor
It’s often said that you are most like the people you surround yourself with. This carries more weight in your mentor-mentee relationship because your mentor will be pouring all of who they are into who you are and want to be. Thus, they need to have the type of qualities you too would like to grow and nourish.
- Enthusiastic. A mentor should be excited to mentor you. Their desire and passion to help is evident in how they present themselves to you.
- Active listener. Mentorship is a symbiotic relationship where both parties benefit. Your mentor should be willing to listen to you and not solely focused on doling out advice without considering your needs and progress.
- Honest. This is crucial in a mentor-mentee relationship because honest feedback forms the backbone of a good mentorship. Your mentor needs to be able to give good, productive feedback that will help cultivate your potential and improve in various areas.
- Knowledgeable. A good mentor should have a relevant background and expertise in their field. This is important because their knowledge of the industry, and landscape is what you need to excel in your career. They will have a wealth of experience to impart on you.
- Respectful. How a person sees, values, and treats another human being, regardless of their station in life says a lot about their character. As such, you need a mentor who treats you and conducts themselves in a respectful manner.
How to find a good mentor
There’s a lot of value in finding the right mentor. You can’t just pick someone you like based on their style or taste. You must be deliberate and intentional about finding a good mentor, so you get out of the relationship what it’s designed for.
- Know your goals. There’s a famous saying, “if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it.” It’s important to know what it is you want to achieve and accomplish. The more specific you are about what your goals are, the easier it will be to find the right mentor. You also don’t want to find a willing mentor but waste their time because you haven’t set down a clear vision for what you want.
- Research. Your mentor doesn’t have to be on the front cover of a magazine or have millions in the bank. In most cases, you have people in your professional circle, or they know someone who has what you’re looking for in a mentor. Look around you. Your boss, a former professor, a department head, or in your friendship circle. Study who you admire, what qualities, traits, and roles you aspire to have and explore if they will be the right match for you.
- Reach out. Once you’ve identified who you believe can be a good fit for you, make your approach. Invite them for a coffee (if they have time) or schedule a meeting to make the request. If you don’t know them directly or have a standing relationship with them, ask a mutual acquaintance to make the introduction and establish common ground. When you do meet them, be confident about who you are, what you want, how you see them contributing to your growth, what your challenges and hopes are.
- Be prepared for a “no” if they are too busy and can’t commit to mentoring you.
- Be honest. Be upfront about the time commitment to the relationship, sacrifices that will be required, and any stumbling blocks you foresee getting in the way.
- Have your elevator pitch ready. If this is your one shot at meeting and making this request, make it a memorable one. Leave a lasting impression.
Finding a mentor should be organic. A forced relationship will likely result in unmet expectations and provide little value.
What everyone agrees on is this: regardless of how long the mentor-mentee relationship lasts, finding the right mentor and forming that solid relationship can be a powerful, life-changing tool for your career. With the right mentor backing you, you are well placed to discover new career opportunities, find a work-life balance, and do more for others than you thought you could. Your next step…pay it forward.