4 Things to Consider Before Choosing a Mentor

Professional guidance from the right person can tremendously boost your career. Learn how to choose a mentor that aligns with your career goals.

National Mentoring Month is celebrated in January, so it’s the perfect time to talk about mentor/mentee relationships. Are you looking for a mentor to help guide your career? Before you reach out to a prospective mentor, there are a few things you need to know, and they are not the typical things that you would read in articles about mentoring. The face of mentoring is changing, so it’s important to expand your thinking around mentorship. Mentoring is not just about a one to one relationship, where a mentor, typically an older, more experienced person, mentors a younger one. There are many types of mentoring relationships today - mentoring circles, peer-mentoring, mentoring network and so on. One mentor is unable to support you in all the ways you need to boost your career. What makes more sense in a dynamic work environment is a network of mentors.
Here are a few things that are worth thinking about before you choose a mentor, or the members of a mentoring network.
What are you looking for in a mentoring relationship? There must be a reason why you think that you need a mentor. Take the time to write down all the reasons. Formulate your reasons for seeking a mentor into specific questions that you want answers for. The more specific your questions, the more prospective mentors will be able to assist you. Now that you have done that, are there some questions you can answer yourself, even if it's with some effort? Only seek assistance for the questions that you cannot answer yourself. The next step is to identify the appropriate people who can help you get the answers you need. Can you easily access these people?
Are you teachable? Are you willing to explore new ideas and ways of doing things that are unfamiliar to you? When you receive advice, will you take the time to process the information, and review any resources and tools that are presented to you? And you’re your mentors open doors for you, do you have the courage to walk through the door, capitalizing on the opportunities. Mentors want to know that they are not wasting time on prospective mentees, who are not willing to follow-through.
Are you willing to reciprocate? All successful relationships are based and built on give and take. So if a mentor gives you her time, what can you offer in return? Everyone needs help with something, you just have to figure out what that something is. Another way to give back, is to pay it forward, by investing your time with another person.
Have a way to track your progress. Change happens over time. How will you know if things are getting better for you as a result of having mentors? If you are seeking mentors because you want to learn a new skill, successfully acquiring the skills and using it in the workplace is one success indicator. Based on your reasons for seeking mentoring, develop ways to track your progress, so you will know what success looks like.
After you have worked through this process, you’ll realize that you need more than one mentor, so create a mentoring network of people who you can call on. A mentoring network is like a personal advisory board. Approaching mentorship this way, you will find mentors who can help you to boost your career.
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