Finding a good mentor is more than an opportunity for networking: these professional relationships are how we learn and grow from the knowledge of those whose footsteps we hope to follow.
Many business professionals maintain relationships with and pay homage to the early mentors of their career as they move onto future success. If you’re looking to become a mentor or are on the search to find one, we’ve compiled six key characteristics worth noting:
Listening is more than just hearing what one has to say. It’s taking the time to engage, without distraction, in the conversation and respond meaningfully to another’s ideas. Good mentors know how to listen to their mentees and help guide the discussion to solutions or supplement questions with personal narrative.
Mentorship is often more than one relationship. Your network is a form of currency in the business world, and the way one uses it can bolster their career and the careers of others. An effective mentor seeks to find their mentee other credible connections in the industry that can lead to new opportunities.
When searching for a mentor, mentees should identify an individual whose current position is closely related to their future goals. Their knowledge, learned through both traditional education and experience, will become invaluable when helping a mentee understand the landscape of their career and gain a competitive edge in their industry.
Eager to Learn
A mentor doesn’t do all the talking. Cindy Hughes Anliker, Associate Director of General Management at UnitedHealthcare, shared that, “too often, we focus on what mentors teach our mentees. While this is very important, our mentees teach us, too.” She continues by stating that the, “best outcome of a mentor/mentee relationship is when we learn from each other’s lessons and be open to these experiences.”
It’s not always easy to give someone feedback, but it’s an important part of everyone’s development. A good mentor will always look for teaching opportunities and provide feedback constructively. In order to give useful feedback, leverage the following principles:
- Maintain your sights on the big picture.
- Align feedback with industry goals.
- Keep feedback behavioral and specific.
- Focus on the facts.
- Speak equally to the positive and negative.
- Link intent to impact.
- Prioritize your feedback and address key items.
A good mentor knows when to step back. In one story of success for “Gwen the Goat,” a world-class poker player, her mentor knew when it was time to let her make the hard decisions in-game. During an especially difficult tournament, coach Lee Jones was prepared to step away at just the right moment. “I knew it was time for tough love—I went into coaching mode,” he shared. Instead of calling her next move Jones text her to “put the phone down and concentrate.” Mentors trust their mentees to eventually learn and make decisions on their own, without close guidance.
Connecting Mentor to Mentee
Whether you’re looking to find a mentor or seeking a mentee, there are a variety of resources at your disposal to help your search. Entrepreneur recommends leveraging everything from online mentoring websites to social media, networking events and volunteer opportunities in the community. Wherever you find your mentor/mentee, remember to stay in contact and approach these relationships with gratitude, respect and optimism.