5 Qualities to Look for When Seeking a Work Mentor
Great mentors have wisdom in abundance. But just because someone knows the ins and outs of your industry, doesn't necessarily mean he or she is the person from whom you can learn the most. So what makes a good mentor?
1. Someone who listens
Of course you'll want your mentor to give advice—but a truly good one will also listen to you—your hopes, your dreams, your ideas, the actionable steps you're currently taking to further your career.
Many mentors will hear the issues you're currently facing and relate their own experiences to them, which can help you tackle problems in a whole new way. But Forbes points out a good mentor will help steer you toward a solution, not just hand you one. This means you should seek out someone who you know has the capacity for listening to you and your unique needs—not someone who simply sees you as a younger version of herself.
2. Someone who gives you constructive criticism
A mentor should absolutely be your cheerleader, encouraging you to push further and strive for more in your career. However, he should also be willing to be honest with you when you're either actively or passively sabotaging those goals.
Your mentor should be prepared to have the “hard talks” with you and give you the kind of feedback even your supervisors either don't have the time, or are unwilling, to give you. No one is perfect, and it's just as important to hear your flaws from an objective third party as it is to hear your strengths.
3. Someone who continues to learn
Good mentors will keep pushing themselves to study what’s currently going on in their industry, even when they’re considered to be at the top of their game. They know that business and the world as a whole are ever-changing places, and they push themselves to stay relevant.
Inc. points out industry insights that were true a decade ago don’t necessarily apply now. Anyone who thinks they know it all will likely disappoint as a mentor, since no industry stays stagnant forever. Seek out someone who is just as eager to continue learning as you are, and you'll be assured her information is actually relevant to this day and age.
4. Someone who remains objective
While it’s certainly possible to eventually become friends with your mentor, it’s important to initially seek out someone with whom you can first and foremost bond with professionally. You ultimately want this person to be a source of industry-based knowledge and resources, which means you don't need to follow his Instagram posts or Twitter feed. Keep things friendly but professional until you two have well established a business relationship. Friendship can follow in its own time.
5. Someone who respects you
Yes, your mentor is doing you a huge favor by taking time out of her busy day to meet with (or talk to) you…but your time also has value, and should be treated accordingly. Don't waste it with a condescending mentor who uses her higher position as a reason to keep you waiting, tune you out, or otherwise not respect the time you two agreed to carve out together.
You won't really benefit from a mentor/mentee relationship if you're constantly left hanging and don't feel supported enough to have your voice heard. Forbes emphasizes that you should be comfortable enough to talk with your mentor without feeling as though you're constantly being condescended to, belittled, or judged.
Remember, sometimes the best mentors can be found in your very own office, while other times it takes searching for someone outside your immediate company but within the confines of the industry as a whole. Take your time searching in order to find a mentor with whom you really click. It will be worth it!