Finding a mentor is a great way to help give your career - and your life - a boost in the right direction. The right mentor can help set you up for success by introducing you to people, suggesting next steps you should take (such as an internship or new project), being encouraging, and showing you that it really is possible to get where you want to be. Dream big, ya know?
But mentorship is tricky, mainly because it can be hard to find the right mentor. So what kind of qualities should your mentor have?
First thing's first...
You need to know what you want out of the mentorship relationship as well as where you think you want your career to go in the future before you'll really know what qualities you need your mentor to have. That means getting those short- and long-term goals sorted!
Relevant Expertise or Knowledge
Seems obvious, right? But you'd be surprised how often people forget that your mentor should have some kind of relevant background to what you want to get in to. Basically, a mentor should be able to help propel you forward in your career because they’ve been where you are and know what it takes to be successful.
Shared personal values & the right attitude
First, you want to be interacting with someone who respects you. Bottom line if they don't respect you, they won't respect your dreams or help you achieve them. Avoid those people!
You want a mentor who has personal integrity and who share your values, both professionally and personally. You may be wondering why personally, but you won't do well with someone who is solely career-driven if you are a person who wants to put family first.
Personally, I gravitate to people who never stop learning. I think a mentor who not only knows a lot about the history of the industry you're in, but also the trends and future of the sector, is vital. They should not only help you in achieving your goals but pursue their own as a thought leader in their field. Want to see if this is your potential mentor? Look for their latest article publications, blogs, or books!
coach and a cheerleader
The mentor wears a lot of different hats: advice giver, tough love coach, connection maker, goal setter, etc. Basically you want someone who can be both a coach and a cheerleader. The coach hat: when your mentor gives you firm advice and pushes you beyond your comfort zone. The cheerleader hat: when your mentor encourages you to do things you might not yet feel ready to do and celebrates your success (as if it was their own).
Ability to Give Honest and Direct Feedback
The reason you want someone respectful is a) you deserve basic human decency within relationships and b) they will give you constructive tough love when you need it. A good mentor knows how to deliver feedback in a way that’s kind but direct, knowing that honesty is what you need in order to succeed. Basically, get someone who will call you out on your BS... in a nice way.
questions to ask yourself before asking someone to be your mentor
Why you should have more than one mentor
Hear me out: have you ever wanted your own personal advisory board? By having multiple mentors, you can do just that! Not only are you then able to receive advice on all aspects of your life, you will increase your network (and opportunities), and can feel confident that your decisions were made by hearing all different points of views. Plus, if you can't get a hold of one mentor for a specific problem, you have additionalm resources to rely on!
what is a sponsor?
One kind of mentor you want in your corner is a sponsor. A sponsor was once described to me as someone who actively advocates for you in the rooms you are in (and are not in). While a mentor can guide you with their advice and support, and a sponsor can get you access to opportunities that you might not get on your own.
what to expect...
The first session with your new mentor should begin with a conversation about what you are looking to get out of this relationship, your career development goals, and how you think you can reach your full potential. Sounds a little backwards, right? Well, that's because a mentor shouldn't be responsible for your success... the mentees should feel in control of their goals and triumphs. Here is what we also get wrong about this relationship!
do you have a mentor?
Hi! I'm Melissa, an Australian-based Latina science educator, podcaster, and freelance writer. I spend a lot more time on Instagram and Twitter, but blogging is my first love. Thanks for stopping by — I hope you stay a while.
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