Building the life you want to be living is hard work. Working toward your goals, staying healthy, dealing with the unexpected, being a good parent/child/friend/partner/etc are all things that require a large amount of dedication, strategy, and strength. At every stage in life, we can benefit from having the guidance of a great mentor — someone we respect and trust — in order to grow into the kickass humans we were meant to be.
You may be the star of your own show, but you still need an outstanding supporting cast in order to bring your vision to life. Finding a mentor (or multiple mentors) is an effective way to fine-tune your goals and bring your ideas to life.
Not just anyone is equipped for the job of being your mentor. To maximize your odds of finding a quality mentor-mentee relationship, it is crucial that you determine whether or not a potential mentor possesses the qualities of someone that you can entrust with your personal growth.
11 Important Qualities to Look For in a Great Mentor:
Your mentor should be willing and able to effectively guide you on your journey. This person should be an expert in a field that connects with your personal goals, and they should be knowledgeable on what it takes to achieve success. Look for a mentor who is well-connected and respected by their peers, which can likely lead to greater opportunities for you.
There will always be hurdles and challenges, but a great mentor will be able to guide you in developing a strategy that will get you where you need to be within a realistic timetable. Make sure that you look for a mentor who has the resources to help you reach your goals.
A great mentor is willing to whip you into shape. He or she should believe in your potential for greatness and push you beyond your comfort zone in the best way possible. Your mentor should call you out when you’re making too many excuses and challenge you to consider possibilities that you may not have thought were possible.
There should be no room for cutting corners with a great mentor, because he or she won’t allow you to sell yourself short. In moments when you are unable to see the bigger picture, your mentor should be there to provide the necessary brushstrokes to complete the vision that will be your masterpiece.
It’s unlikely that your mentor will have several mentees at one time — but if they do, pay attention to what they share with you and how they talk about the other people in their lives. Does your mentor share sensitive information with you about their other relationships? Do they have a tendency to speak negatively about other people? If the answer is yes, then find a different mentor. A great mentor is someone you can trust implicitly. You should never have to question whether or not your mentor has your back.
A great mentor should never have a hidden agenda. You should not owe your mentor anything outside of being grateful and appreciative of their help. As the mentee, you are showing your respect for your mentor’s wisdom and insight, and a great mentor will respect you equally.
Mentor-mentee relationships can be mutually beneficial, but your relationship should never be contingent on your willingness to do favors for your mentor or perform unrelated tasks. Everything assigned by your mentor should have a purpose, and you should never be made to feel obligated to “pay your dues”.
Early on, make sure to ask what is required of you as a mentee and how your progress will be measured. Put all of the information in writing so you can reference it later on, if necessary.
A good mentor is your biggest cheerleader. While they should challenge you to be your very best self, a mentor should make it a priority to celebrate your wins, even the small ones. A mentor is selfless, confident, and supportive. Their role should be to elevate and celebrate you. Run as fast as you can from self-absorbed mentors. You have no real value to that type of toxic mentor outside of building his or her own ego.
Look for a mentor with a similar set of morals and values. If your mentor’s personal beliefs contradict with what you stand for, it will almost certainly cause problems for both of you in the long run.
Also, be conscious of the fact that someone can be highly successful without being high-integrity. Do some background research on any potential mentor to make sure they have an outstanding reputation in their industry without a history of questionable decision-making or a pattern of fall-outs with various deals or employers.
Low-integrity mentors are very likely to fumble when you ask them to assist with your goals. You don’t want to work with someone who may reflect poorly on your reputation. Your association with someone who is not well-respected in their industry could burn bridges for you before you even have a chance to prove yourself. Avoid working with a mentor who lacks sincerity, because you may end up suffering from their mistakes.
Finding a great mentor is all about finding someone who will be with you for the long haul. Look for a mentor who will be committed to helping you work toward your goals and see them through. You should never have to question whether or not your mentor will show up for you. Enough said.
Healthy interpersonal communication is less about, “It’s my turn to speak” and more about, “I’m all ears”. While you shouldn’t expect your mentor to replace your therapist, you should feel comfortable sharing personal struggles with your mentor. They should be open to hearing your perspective (even if they don’t agree with it) and be ready to step in with the appropriate response.
A good mentor won’t spoon-feed you with things you want to hear; they’ll provide you with the things you need to hear. Achieving your goals requires a structured & rational plan. A mentor isn’t there to be your bestie. Sometimes, the answer they give you won’t necessarily be the one you hoped to hear, but a great mentor will be focused on giving you the best insight for your long-term success.
Mentoring someone is a time commitment. Your mentor is just as busy as you are, if not even busier. A great mentor will be willing to give you their full attention. A mentor that is easily distracted, prone to rescheduling, or unconcerned with objectives pertaining to your goal is a waste of time on both ends. In one-on-one calls or meetings, you should be able to count on having your mentor’s undivided attention.
When your mentor gives you a list of action items, you may screw up on a few of them. A great mentor knows that making errors learning from your mistakes is part of the road to success. You are probably already your greatest critic, so the the last thing you need is a mentor who is quick to belittle you for your errors. A great mentor will possess empathy and emotional intelligence to uplift you on days when things are uncertain. Find someone who won’t use your inexperience against you.
11. A Lifelong Learner
The mentor you choose is likely older and more seasoned than you in your field of interest. Their perspective is invaluable. Your mentor’s long-term success should be a good indication of their ability to adapt to change in their industry. This means that your mentor should be able to put industry practices in context for you, and draw from a wide range of strategies that could help you reach your goals. It’s important to find a mentor who is a lifelong learner, because they will be constantly enhancing their own skills and paying it forward by teaching and inspiring you.
If you’re looking for more on mentors & mentorship, don’t miss our our Mind of a Mentor podcast series! Every Monday, we air a new episode featuring the “hero’s journey” of an inspiring human. Through an intimate conversation with our moderator (LikeABossGirls CEO Marla Isackson), our guests share the story behind their life and work, detailing the struggles and triumphs that made them into the person they are today.