A great mentor is an invaluable resource in your career, whether you’re starting your own business, trying to get ahead or just looking for some helpful job advice.
They’re a great sounding board if you need someone to bounce a wild idea off, as well as a source of insights and advice to help solve your latest career conundrum.
Whether they’re in your industry or not doesn’t matter necessarily, as long as it’s someone you look up to, admire and respect.
But they do need to meet a few requirements to make sure you get something out of the relationship. Here are the five qualities to look out for in your next mentor.
That ex-boss you’re scared of is not the best mentor choice. No matter what their knowledge and experience is, it’s going to be wasted if they’re intimidating and there’s no good rapport.
So first and foremost, a mentor needs to be approachable and available to help, and most will be happy to share their experience and advice with you.
It could be a boss, co-worker, family member or friend, as long as you’re comfortable and relaxed asking them for their opinions when you need to.
No matter how hard their advice might be to swallow at times, a great mentor will tell you the truth, not just what you want to hear.
It could be things like sticking out a job, applying for a different position, brushing up on professional development, taking a risk or just telling you to pull your head in.
At the end of the day, a mentor who’s invested in your growth and development will want the best for you, even if it means telling you some difficult truths.
Accept this and know that an honest mentor will be far more beneficial than one who sugar-coats things.
While a mentor should be professional, there’s no need for a formal agreement or meetings when it comes to the mentor/mentee relationship, just an understanding that you ask for their opinions when you need to.
Particularly if they’re a great friend, it’s important they be serious and give helpful advice when required.
If it is a more structured system (a formal mentor program at work for example), the mentor needs to be prepared, organised and committed, and give advice in a way that is well thought-out and effective.
A great mentor should be open-minded, unbiased and reasonable. This will ensure their advice is always on point and there’s no judgement so you can speak freely.
It sounds simple, but discussing topics like salary can be personal and awkward, so it’s important they’re objective throughout the process.
An apathetic mentor is worse than no mentor at all. It’s important the person you’re asking advice from shows the same enthusiasm and respect you give them, so make sure they’re keen to share their time and thoughts with you.
If it’s a chore for them or they regularly forget to reply or meet you, it’s time to start looking for someone who’s just as invested in helping you as you are.
Main pic: Mr Miyagi in the Karate Kid.