The concept of having a mentor to help you in your career and professional growth is nothing new. In fact, it’s common to hear of everyone from doctors and lawyers to teachers and entrepreneurs having a mentor. But, the mentorships of today may look different from what you anticipated or remembered.
A Huffington Post article defines mentoring as a “partnership where a ‘mentee’ is assigned to a more experienced ‘mentor’, who passes on valuable aspects of their own accumulated experience and wisdom for the benefit of the mentee’s personal and professional development.” However, as the same article explains, mentoring has evolved and often both individuals play the roles of mentor and mentee. For instance, now “mentors gain an understanding of the world view of another generation and equally, mentees can help senior colleagues to see new perspectives and shifts in societal behavior, for instance, the growing importance of social networks.”
So if you’re on a quest to find the right mentor, you need to sit up and pay attention. This shake-up in the roles and expectations associated with mentoring affects what you should look for in a mentor. Not only do you need to consider if someone will be a good mentor in the traditional sense, you also need to contemplate if the person will be a good “student.” To help you sift through your options, here are five traits that set a great mentor apart.
A mentoring relationship is based on communication, and the most important aspect of communication is listening. You want a mentor who understands the difference between hearing and listening – someone who strives to understand what you’re trying to say. This is crucial when you’re trying to describe a situation in order to get their input, as well as when you’re trying to explain a new concept, such as social media.
Young At Heart
There are some people who have always been old at heart, while there are others who will always be young at heart. When you’re looking for a mentor, find someone who is the latter. Certainly, if you’re helping your mentor understand the differences in work culture or between the generations, it will make your job easier. But, it will also help mentors relate to you and give better advice if they remember what it was like to be young.
It takes a courageous person to open up and be honest at the level required for a truly successful mentorship. But even beyond that, you need to find a mentor who has had some major career failures and yet still had the courage to keep trying. The more mistakes someone has bounced back from, the more experience they’ll have to share and the more helpful they’ll be as a mentor. Plus, this will be the kind of mentor who isn’t afraid to ask questions and learn new things from you.
If you want to get the most out of a mentoring relationship – with both of you giving and taking – you want a mentor who is teachable. While a know-it-all advisor might be helpful for a while, you’ll soon get tired of the attitude and start wishing for someone more open minded. This is something you really want to pinpoint because it ultimately goes back to expectations. Does your mentor just want to give you advice and tell you what to do? Or does your mentor want a reciprocal relationship so he or she can learn new things from you too?
Inquisitive people are generally successful people, which is exactly what you want in a mentor. You need someone who is curious about your life and wants to know how to help. A naturally curious person will encourage your own curiosity and push you to never stop learning. That need-to-know drive will also ensure the mentorship is a two-way relationship, with your mentor learning from you as well.
Mentoring is no longer the one-way street it once was. An article from Forbes echoes the same sentiment and explains that, “Effective mentorship relationships enrich both people.” So make sure you keep that in mind as you seek out a mentor. A great mentor will also make a great mentee.
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