- Someone you respect in the area you want mentorship on – For example, if you want a mentor for achieving work life balance, then that mentor should have wisdom and experience in that area.
- Mutual rapport and respect – Someone you can speak to honestly about your situations and ask questions; someone you respect, but someone who is inspired by your potential. You can read more about this in my article “Mentorship Model – Mutual Mentorship or Pay it Forward”.
- Someone interested in helping others grow, and knows how to do it – Not all brilliant people know how to teach what they know, and the same is true for mentors. You need to find someone that is interested in helping others, and someone that will give you sound, objective advice. This quality is especially critical for a mentor, as you will place a lot of trust in them. You need to make sure he or she provides advice based on your best interests.
- Someone that is supportive, not controlling -A mentor is a guide, not someone that tells you what to do. A mentor should challenge you to look at all aspects of a situation, and guide you to make your own decision. A mentor is not someone who criticizes you for your mistakes. You should find someone who can support and encourage you in your endeavor to develop your skills, even if you make mistakes along the way.
- Someone who is willing to be your mentor – you have to ask someone to be your mentor. Great mentors are also busy people, and can only have the capacity to mentor a few people well. See my article “How to Ask Someone to be Your Mentor” for specific dos and don’ts.
Once you make sure that this person has the four qualities above, then you can proactively build the relationship for them to be your mentor. Besides the above five qualities of a good mentor, I would also advise the following:
- Find more than one mentor. Even a good mentor with all the above five qualities will disappoint in one area or another eventually. In fact, I think it’s expecting too much when you hope that one mentor could provide you with all the guidance you need. Instead, build a “board of advisors” composed of 3 to 5 mentors that can guide you in different aspects of life and career.
- Realize that your mentors should change as you grow in your career and life. You can read more in this article on who you can model yourself after
Good luck finding a set of great mentors! I am always in your corner.
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