I consider myself very lucky in my career. From working in media at the BBC when I first left university to today being an M.D. in a globally recognised training and development organisation.
Why? Because along the way, I have had mentors on hand to help, support, cajole and guide me along the path.
So, if like me, you were looking for a mentor and guide, I think you’ll find this post useful as we share 7 areas your mentor will demonstrate consistently.
1. Demonstrate Expertise In Their Field
Though this might seem the most relevant criteria when choosing a mentor, sometimes it does get missed; they need to have expertise in your current field.
Let’s say you want to be the next Head of Performance Marketing in your company; your mentor would ideally have experience in this specific role or marketing in general.
Just because someone is a favourite member of the team, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be a great mentor who can help your ongoing career development.
Certainly more senior members of the organisation will have valuable wisdom to share, but they may be too far removed from the process to offer any tactical insight of value.
2. Is A Positive Role Model Willing To Share Their Knowledge
Your mentor is hopefully excited about the process of working with you, and it’s likely they have mentored successful people, just like you, in the past too.
If they appear less than joyful to work with you, move on. A good mentor is willing to teach what they know while accepting where you are on your growth curve.
Always ask them questions: Ask them about their experiences and learn from their stories. Good mentors can remember what it was like starting in the field, so use their expertise and learnings to your advantage.
Watch their behaviour, make notes and model off them. One of the great ways to replicate successful practice is to model it. Richard Bandler is an American trainer and one of the founders of NLP, a methodology to understand and change human behaviour-patterns.
One strategy for success he teaches is modelling. So use this to your advantage as you work with your mentor.
3. Demonstrate Their Self Awareness and EI Quotient
If you are choosing a mentor, look for an individual who is successful and self-aware. In a recent post, I talked about the need for today’s leaders to be more self-aware. This also needs to be a critical attribute in the mentors you choose too.
A great mentor will be curious about you, learning, life in general and development; all of which are attributes of an individual with high Emotional Intelligence.
4. Demonstrate Their Respect For You By Setting Challenges
The whole point of having a mentor is to facilitate growth. Though it is incredibly helpful to have a listening ear when ‘things’ don’t go to plan; it’s also vital to have a mentor to push us outside of our comfort zone.
We only grow by stepping out.
This past weekend, I was having a box set binge of Harry Potter, and his relationship with Dumbledore is an excellent example of being challenged in order to grow.
Harry Potter had a rough start in life. A terrible aunt and uncle and a bed under the stairs! However, as the story reveals, he turned out rather well!
Hagrid starts the process of helping Harry along his growth journey, which is taken over by Dumbledore, who leads Harry through challenges as he educates him on the way of being a truly great wizard.
5. Open Their Network
There is a much-used quote from Tim Sanders, the New York Times bestselling author and former Yahoo! executive that our network will determine our net worth.
Sir Richard Branson understands the importance of mentorship. Branson asked British airline entrepreneur, Sir Freddie Laker, for guidance during his struggle to get Virgin Atlantic off the ground. Branson wrote in a well-known British newspaper: “It’s always good to have a helping hand at the start. I wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker.”
It’s well documented that Branson tapped into Sir Freddie’s network. It was a similar story with Mark Zuckerburg and Steve Jobs. However, this doesn’t mean you need access to someone famous and their network. You might be surprised whom your mentor knows and whom he or she can introduce you to who will help your career.
6. Guide You and Gives Constructive Feedback
‘You don’t know what you don’t know’, one of the critical reasons for working with a mentor in the first place.
Therefore expect your mentor to guide you, and at times realign you along the path you want to go. The beauty of a mentor is that they can suggest ideas that will save you time and too many turns in the wrong direction.
The whole point of working with a mentor is to grow.
7. Provide a Safe Space
If you could gain everything you need with your current manager, then mentorship would have gone out of fashion years ago.
The truth is that an excellent mentor adds different elements to the growth equation.
As we mentioned earlier, they will have performed the role you are now in or at least similar elements.
As they aren’t your direct manager, they can also perform the function of being a great sounding board and willing listener to the conversations going on in your head.
Even in today’s hyper-connected world, there are still some things we don’t want to share with a manager when we are processing various scenarios in our career development.
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