It doesn’t matter what career you are in but you need guidance to help you elevate and thrive in it. You can source that guidance, motivation and practical tips from someone who has done it before that can mentor you.
Mentors can be very useful in whatever stage of career you are in. It could be job hunting, adjusting at work, searching for opportunities to grow in that industry or if you want to cut a new path.
A mentor will help you through the most important critical decisions you have to make in your career. How can you find a good mentor?
Here are 7 tips from a CEO and career experts on how to find a good mentor:
Ensure expertise and knowledge
The most important thing you need from a mentor is their knowledge and expertise in the industry you are in. All the information you learn from a mentor can be used to grow in the respective career you are pursuing and end up being an industry expert.
Having a mentor who doesn’t have the relevant experience and knowledge can be useless to you because he would be just as clueless as you.
If they have worked the exact same job that you are working on, that can be a major bonus because they have been precisely where you are. Their experience means that they have seen the landscape and dynamics in that career and they know what you need to do to be successful. Perhaps, the mentor you are gunning for is an executive or president of a company you are in.
Those individuals are the ones you should target the most because they can offer you valuable inside information about the industry or company. Be sure that they aren’t ahead of you with 5 to 10 years experience only but it should be more than that.
More experience interprets as a treasure trove of advice that they can share about the pitfalls and knowledge of growing in your respective career.
Try to figure out his personality
Apart from his professional background, you also need to figure out the potential mentor’s personality. Remember that you will be stuck with the same mentor for most of the time when you need advice and you might start being friends. To ensure that you are building a good friend, you need to know the personality of the person you’re befriending.
In the shortlist of potential mentors you have, scout for those with most experience but also with personality traits and characteristics you would expect from your friend. Perhaps you might like interacting with someone with humility and has great conversational skills.
Try to identify who fits that criteria the most and then try your best to get him on board. Also, you can always just use your gut feeling when choosing the perfect mentor for the career you are in.
Whoever sits well with you, go with him just as long as he has the necessary experience to guide you to success. Remember that the way he treats you is very dependent on his personality, traits and daily habits. That’s why personality is so important when it comes to finding a good mentor for the growth you expect in the industry and career you are in.
How available is the potential mentor?
You need to spend a lot of time with the mentor you end up choosing for you to fully benefit from his gems of wisdom that he has.
The time you need is widely dependent on his schedule because he can manage to see you when he isn’t busy with other important business. You can’t expect him to take some time off work to attend to you and help you make the right choices.
With that being said, you need to ensure that the mentor you choose is not too busy to not even give you the time of day. Sometimes it might be that he is avoiding you but the reason could be that he is genuinely busy because of his workload.
To avoid feeling like a burden and to fully benefit from mentorship, ensure that you try to find out the daily activities of the potential mentor.
If he is too busy and doesn’t even make time for his family, your priority might be even lower. Also, if he perhaps runs more than one company, there will be a slim chance that he can have or make time for you. These are the warning signs you should look out for when choosing a mentor because you need to ensure that he will have time for you.
Enthusiasm in teaching others
Just as outlined above, it is important to find someone with the relevant expertise and knowledge that is related to your career. It could be in vain finding someone with that experience but who doesn’t like to share it with others.
Try and find someone who isn’t stingy with the knowledge he has but who is generous to give it to others for free. For example, mentors that have blogs that offer free industry information can be a great sign of a potential mentor.
You can also try to figure out the kind of experience he has through his posts and while you are reading them identify how enthusiastic he is about it. Are his blogs revealing details vaguely or does he release information manipulatively? Those are telltale signs that he may not be the best option for the intention you have for him.
The way he shares the information he knows should be open and show that he is excited to tell other people about the things he knows.
Does the mentor try to ensure that you understand? Or his primary objective is simply telling you what he knows without caring if you truly understand? Those can be negative signs that a certain potential mentor isn’t worth the effort because you will not benefit anything from him.
A good mentor will guide you on everything, from writing business emails to public speaking and from planning a career map to develop mental abilities.
It also includes crucial business decisions like outsourcing the work – a calling process to some call center or research writing or white papers to professional writing services, attending new courses to enhance the skills and knowledge and handling audit requirements of the function that you manage.
Attend industry events
Sourcing the perfect mentor candidates is one of the very important stages of getting one. Some may not know where to even start and even though LinkedIn can be a great place to source a mentor, it can have inefficiencies. For example, LinkedIn can only provide you with limited knowledge of the person in the shortlist.
You wouldn’t know much about the mentor when you haven’t seen each other face to face. You wouldn’t know how he talks, which would help you rate his communication skills and there is limited information on his expertise and knowledge.
On the other hand, when you converse face to face, you will learn a lot about the potential candidate. You might also discover valuable information about their personality, traits, and characteristics.
The best way to meet potential mentors without seeming like a stalker is to attend live industry events. Probably in that event, he is a guest speaker or he is just there to attend the event, but it can be a great place to start a conversation.
Once you start talking, he might realize that you have more in common with him and a great friendship can start right there and then. It is important to attend industry events to source and start a conversation with potential mentors and network with others.
Frankness and being direct
Having a nice and friendly mentor can be very beneficial because he can give you encouragement in a more respectful manner.
The problem starts when you are veering off course, it might be a problem for him to call you out for the mistakes you are making. Due to that, it is as equally as important to find someone who is prepared to crack the whip a little and give you some tough love.
Undoubtedly, you will find yourself on the wrong side and doing things that are detrimental to your career and a mentor should put you back in line.
To do that, they have to be frank and direct to deliver feedback to you in a more constructive manner. The mentor should have a mixture of being frank and direct with you but also not neglecting being kind when talking to you.
If the mentor speaks hurtfully to you, the advice he is giving out may not be as effective as the one he would say kindly. The most important thing, though, is getting someone who isn’t afraid of being honest and truthful to you. With a mentor like that, you will most likely make a better decision on and off the workplace because of how he is grooming you.
Listening to others
Another important trait of a good mentor is the ability to listen to others. It’s true that they should teach you all they know about the industry you are in and the career you have chosen but they should also listen to you. If they are not willing to listen to you, it will be hard for them to steer you in the right direction.
Instead of shutting you out, they should listen to your story, which entails where you come from and the targeted destination you would like to reach.
Also, when teaching you, it shouldn’t be a one-sided conversation but instead, it should incorporate conversation from both parties. Their teaching style should be question and answer to try and figure out what you are thinking.
When sourcing a mentor, try to determine if they speak about themselves most of the time or if they have an interest in others too.
A mentor that likes to speak about himself most of the time won’t do you any justice and there is very little you will learn from him. Try to find ones that engage all parties in a meaningful conversation and also have an interest in other people around them.
The bottom line
Finding a mentor can be a great way to elevate yourself in your respective career you are pursuing. They can help you grow until you are ready to get promoted and pursue leadership roles because of their expertise and industry knowledge they possess.
When sourcing a mentor, it is important to note a few things when engaging in conversation with them like their conversational and listening skills. Also, do your own research about the number of companies he runs. Do that with the intention of finding out about the tightness of his schedule to determine whether he will have time to teach and train you enough.