Have you ever been in a meeting and just listened to a woman speak and all the energy within you activates and you just think “I HAVE to be connected to her.” Like a magnet? Those are the lucky times when mentors are clearly revealed to us as we evolve in our careers. I hope that you’ve had at least one of those moments, but sometimes you have to actively seek out a mentor figure. [Note: if you’re in need of a mentor, it is YOUR responsibility to find one. We have to be proactive and ask for what we want and need, ladies! Don’t assume that someone wants to help you!]
If you are seriously seeking a mentor, here are some characteristics to look out for…
A mentor should have the experience or skills that you want or need. She doesn’t have to be the top dog, but she shouldn’t be your peer. Obviously, there are some caveats to this statement. For example, you could be peers, but she has a knowledge base that you don’t have. Ideally, a mentor/mentee relationship will not look like the blind leading the blind. You’ll both run into walls! Also note that while we think having women mentors are important, you should have a mentors from a mix of backgrounds. They can be male or female, in your industry or outside of your industry, younger or older, etc. Just think about the wealth of knowledge you can capture by people who are different from you!
A good mentor will be actively building a network. One of the most valuable things a mentor can do is point you in the right direction. This means your mentor should have resources that you don’t have or should be willing to leverage her network to help you grow and succeed. One of the things I always do when mentoring is tap into my network of friends and colleagues to see who I can connect. Your mentor will not be able to be all things for you, but she should be able to help you find what you need.
A good mentor is positive and speaks life into you! If your mentor is always complaining about her job, why would she be able to help you navigate yours?! Your mentor should be able to see both good and bad, the highs and the lows. She should be enthusiastic and genuinely wanting to help you. This is especially helpful when you are discouraged! I cannot tell you how many times I just wanted to give up and my mentor offered a shot of sunshine that told my soul to keep going!
Mentors should be proactive rather than reactive. If a mentor notices something that you can work on, she should be open and direct about it BEFORE it becomes an issue for you. A good example is when my mentee was looking for a new role and would encounter interviews, negotiation conversations and potentially giving a 2-week notice, I took her through interviewing prep, harped on when and why to negotiate, and I worked with her on clearly articulating what it is that she wanted so that she could communicate that to her next employer. A proactive mentor means that you’ll be prepared with what’s coming around the next curve and you’re less likely to be caught off guard.
Finally, a good mentor should have a good mentor. You should look for this for a number of reasons. A good mentor should be actively seeking improvement on her own. She should be getting filled up by someone who is guiding her. A good mentor knows that she still has room to grow and by having a mentor herself, she not only recognizes that she needs help, but she’ll have the humility to recognize where you are and remember when she was once there.
I hope this helps you in your pursuit, but I also hope this helps you become a good mentor. You may already have your person (or people…I have several mentors), but know that someone needs you too! Contact us if you’re looking for a mentor or just want to tell us about how your mentor helps you succeed. We’d love to hear from you! #NationalMentoringMonth