5 Smart Strategies for Choosing the Right Mentor

November 28, 2016

2:20 pm

Mentors can help you see things differently when it comes to what you want to accomplish in life and how to go after it – both personally and professionally. Many entrepreneurs would not have gotten as far as they are today were it not for quality mentors.

When choosing a mentor, sometimes it just feels right. However, other situations will require a lot of consideration into it before starting a relationship. In doing so, there are some criteria that you can use to determine if someone will make a good mentor for you.

Decide What You Need From a Mentor

In order to find the right mentor, first you have to know what you want out of the relationship. At different points in your life, those needs can change. Start by generating a list of short-term and long-term career goals, and determine what skills and knowledge you will need to get there. Then, list what type of benefits you perceive a mentor could provide. Decide if expertise in a particular industry is a must, or if you are seeking general experience and knowledge that can serve you regardless of your career path.

This information will help you determine whether you want a mentor with experience and skills to guide you regardless of the industry, or if you want a mentor that specifically can help you grow within a certain business niche.

Know What You Want to Ask Your Mentor Candidates

Asking the right questions can help you narrow down your list of potential mentors, because their answers will provide you with a sense of what they would be like to work with and what benefits they could offer. Here are a few that you can ask:

  • What other types of mentoring have you done?
  • What are the most important characteristics of a mentor?
  • How would you describe your leadership style?
  • What special skills or knowledge do you have that could help me?
  • How much time do you have to devote to mentoring?
  • Can you describe a typical mentoring program to me?

Identify the Characteristics of an Effective Mentor

There are several key characteristics to look for in a mentor. The unifying factor with these characteristics is that they are all tied to positivity and objectivity. They include empathy, consistency, patience, maturity, honesty, openness, accessibility, strength, the ability to be savvy, and effective communication.

Meet with potential mentors in person to see if you can spot these characteristics in action. Then, ask them to describe their best and worst characteristics. Observe their body language to determine how those characteristics come across nonverbally. And finally, watch them in action at a conference or event or shadow them in their own organization to see how they work.

Get Input From Others

While there is no Yelp “mentor edition,” asking others for input on certain people can be a huge help. Referrals for mentoring really helps to narrow down the selection, because you have tried-and-tested mentoring experiences to use as a measuring stick for your own selection process.

Run similar questions by them to see how they explain a certain mentor. Then, get a few opinions before deciding so you can see if there is any pattern in responses, and ask others to provide specific examples as to why (or why not) you should work with a particular mentor.

Create a Partnership Plan

The responses you get in regards to a partnership plan will tell you a lot about what it would be like to work with a potential mentor. Those that stand out the most are the ones that give honest feedback, including what they would change about the plan. How they present their opinion will tells you whether they are compatible with your vision.

They don’t have to agree with you — if anything, the best mentoring relationships are those filled with questions and debates. So, ask your potential mentors what they would change about the plan and why, and see if they have their own partnership plan they can share for comparison’s sake.

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