We all need supporters. We all need the wisdom of those who have gone before us. We all need professional mentors.
I’m not referring to a hierarchical structure where there is payback to the newbie on the team. I’m not talking about mentors who like to dish out what was given to them or simply gossiping about other people in the organization, while claiming they are just showing you the ropes.
I’m talking about women and men who will give their time and encouragement to help support your journey. Here are three attributes to either look for in a good mentor or to be a good mentor.
A mentor that understands, it’s not about them.
The best kind of mentors are people who are looking for talent. They know that it is less about what they get out of it and more about supporting others to gain from their networks or experience. At the same time, it is true that both usually benefit, but the intention matters. Successful people recognize that they had help getting the positions they have and have altruistic motivations to pass that on to the next generation. Good mentors can see potential and invest their personal experiences to help others gain skills and share connections.
A mentor who is available and open to give opportunity.
Choose a mentor who has the time to invest in the relationship and also make sure that you have the time to meet on a semi-regular basis. Without consistent meetings and access to information it’s hard to learn and gain valuable insights into developing skills. Also, be aware that some people are reluctant to share crucial information that will help you be successful. Unfortunately, some can see a mentoring relationship as threatening, so they may limit valuable information. Therefore, find someone confident who you don’t appear to compete with.
A mentor who shares experience and has achieved a level of success.
Find a mention that has reached the level of success you are personally looking for. Try to find a mentor who is really doing what you see yourself doing in the next 10-15 years. It’s similar to an apprentice. You’ll want to find someone whose job you’d like to have some day. I’ve seen many well-intentioned people that get grouped together, but the job isn’t in alignment. Don’t make the mistake of meeting just because you like someone. You may personally like someone, but make sure they walked the path you are wanting to walk. Otherwise, the mentor won’t have the information you need to develop the particular career you are trying to achieve.
Finding a mentor can be hard. Not all seasoned professionals have wisdom. It’s important to trust your gut on this one. Find someone you trust, find someone who wants to genuinely give back and has altruistic reasons for mentoring. Find someone you respect and who believes in your career journey. These relationships can be absolutely instrumental in your career development and an organically open opportunity that goes beyond expectation. Most times we can’t be where we are today without being lifted up by the people that believed in us. Whether the mentorship is based on reaching a particular position, being financially set, or simply accomplishing a goal you set out for yourself, mentors can help you out of problems and potential pitfalls that are new to you. Who better to help you out of novel problems than those who have already experience them? That is why professional mentors are such a big deal.