If you are like most people, then you will have the innate desire for self-improvement. This is human nature – we all want the feeling of importance and a sense of accomplishment for what we do. The reality however, is that you wont be able to do this alone. To be good at something means learning about it in a context that surpasses what you learn in textbooks. What you need is a mentor – someone with years of skills and tacit knowledge. However, finding how what to look for in a mentor is harder that it seems. Many “so called” mentors like the fancy title but fall short when it comes to delivery; and the person that tends to suffer the most is you.
In an attempt to help you choose the right mentor so that you can prosper in all areas of your life – here are 5 great tips on what to look for in a mentor.
Choose a mentor who is smarter than you
Being smart may be relative to the subject area. You may be smart at Math but dumb at English. In this case , it merely means finding someone that is particularly well learned in the area you fall short on. So for example : a new medical graduate will require a mentor that is has practical skills in medicine and who is well versed when it comes to hospital culture and politics. This mentor you choose should be someone senior – who can guide and navigate you in the right directions. Someone who is able to give you advice when you are clueless and also point you in the right direction in terms of content you should be learning. There is nothing that can compete with wisdom gained from years of experience – which is what makes it one of the most important considerations when deciding on what to look for in a mentor.
Willingness to share is what to look for in a mentor
The underlying reason why mentors tend to be so valuable is because they have acquired knowledge through mistakes and hard-work. Due to the struggles they had to overcome, many of these individuals don’t part with their knowledge easily. The key to finding a good mentor is therefore to look for the unselfish person who has bounds of knowledge and who is waiting to transfer it to a willing learner. These individuals are usually the one’s that had a good mentor and want to “pay it forward.” Here are some great way to identify these people:
- Look for those that are always giving you advice about things
- Identify those people that go above and beyond when you ask them a question
- Keep an eye out for those people that pull you back on track when you lose your way
- Network on social media -there are usually people who have dedicated careers in mentoring
- Join professional bodies – there are usually people that offer their services to maintain their accreditation
- Attend workshops on what you require mentorship for – simply mingling with the right people and making a good first impression can get you a great mentor
Choose a mentor for the stage in your life
It might be great to have the CEO of a large company mentor you, if he is even willing – however the practicality of such a set-up is unlikely to work. This is unless you are a senior executive next in line. Having a mentor means having someone to regularly teach and guide you. A mere few hours in a month will do little in your quest for achievement unless you have already acquired significant knowledge. Therefore when choosing a mentor, look at what stage in your life you are at and assess practically who your mentor should be. For example: a young graduate needs more time for learning and would be better off being mentored from a senior technical expert. A line manager would not be suitable as he/she will have less time to teach the graduate basic things in detail. As the graduate progresses, an upgrade in mentorship should occur as a natural transition. This is the principle that you should follow when deciding what to look for in a mentor.
Find a mentor that gives you room for self-growth
A great mentor guides but doesn’t “spoon feed”. If you really want to grow as a person – you will need a mentor that gives you the opportunity to make your own mistakes within the confines of his/her supervision. A good mentor will allow you to strengthen your own skill-sets and harness your own creative thinking and innovation. Make sure that you don’t fall prey to pompous mentors. These are usually the people with superiority complexes, who share their knowledge not for your benefit but merely to fuel their ego.
A mentor that is tolerant
You have unique perspectives and viewpoints. It is what makes you different. It is these perspectives and viewpoints that define the person you are going to be. What happens to a lot of young people shadowing mentors, is that they become a mirror reflection of the mentor. This is okay if it was a personal choice but isn’t okay if it was forced. Therefore to ensure that you have your viewpoint and perspective heard make sure to choose a mentor that is tolerant and open-minded. You don’t want you ideas dismissed – you want your mentor relationship to be one where there is open debate.
Follow the person you want to be
If you want to be a “Nazi” manager then follow one! If you want to be a manager with a balanced family life – then follow one! You need to ensure that the mentor you follow aligns with your personality and future goals. This is because a lot of the habits of the mentor you follow will rub off on you. You don’t want this to compromise your character and aspirations. Too much of a difference in viewpoints will only result in conflicts with you probably giving in. Don’t make the sacrifice – choose wisely. If it doesn’t work then move on to a mutual relationship that does.