Make it Happen: Finding the Right Mentor Pays Off
Finding the right professional mentor is not easy, but they payoff can be well worth the investment in time and energy. The right mentor can help you expand your network, hone your career goals, gain skills, and navigate obstacles.
Kick off 2016 by taking the time to find an ally to help you chart your course to success. Here are five questions you should consider when choosing the right mentor:
- Can you admit what you don’t know? Arguably, this is where it all starts – making sure you can fully participate in a mentor/mentee relationship. As difficult as it sometimes is to self-evaluate, you’ll need to open yourself up to advice and criticism in order to leverage the benefits of a mentor. If not, you won't be taking full advantage of your time or your mentor’s time.
- Do you admire your mentor’s career? Your mentor doesn’t need to have the exact career as you. What’s important is that you admire this person’s path to success and view it as something you can emulate. Ideally, you might want to find someone with similar real-world experience, but there are many strategies for career advancement that apply to any profession.
- Do they have experience you can learn from, and are they willing to invest in you? You’ll want your prospective mentor to have some kind of professional experience that relates to your goals. Good mentors will be able to find wisdom to share, regardless of the differences between you, so differing job or career tracks is not essential. What is important is whether your mentor is willing and able to invest the time needed to impart their wisdom. Make sure your mentor has the bandwidth for such a relationship and appreciates the payoff to you.
- Do you respect and trust them? Respect is the foundation of any relationship, and your mentor/mentee relationship should be no different. Make sure this person possesses ethical and personal qualities that align with yours. And because you’ll most likely confide in this person about private matters, make sure you can trust them. A mentor can only be helpful if you’re willing and able to share experiences, both good and bad. If you don’t feel you can be totally open with your mentor, then you’re selling yourself short.
- Do you enjoy their company? Finally, and this may seem like a no-brainer, but a successful mentor relationship requires a personal connection. If you’re going to spend hours together over time, it’s important that you get along and have fun during the process.
Once you've identified a prospective mentor, understand that you still have some work to do. You’ll want to define your relationship, set expectations, and establish short- and long-term goals. You’ll also want to develop a routine for working together and a roadmap toward accomplishing your goals. Asking the right questions and planning ahead of time, prior to your mentor search and selection, can lead to a lifetime of success.