The old apprenticeship models of employee training are alive and well, imparting wisdom from generations past into the future business leaders and visionaries of tomorrow. One of the thriving vestiges of this centuries-old method of handing down skills can be found in corporate mentorship programs. Aspiring young executives and management leaders look to those who can motivate them and share knowledge while also asking the tough questions.
Those who find the right mentor benefit tremendously, as does the mentor themselves. According to an internal study conducted by Sun Microsystems, those who participated in a mentorship program — both mentors and mentees — had a 20 percent higher likelihood of receiving a raise.
The key, though, is learning how to choose a mentor who can give you the benefits you desire. When evaluating your mentor possibilities, look to the following criteria to help you narrow your search to the person who can bring out the most good in you …and in your career.
How to Choose a Mentor? Make Sure They Have Passion and a Unique Perspective
Most other traits aside, passion is the one that separates great mentors from ineffectual ones. Without passion behind the relationship, you will never be able to genuinely look forward to meeting with your mentor. They must be someone who energizes and inspires.
Also key to a magnetic mentor-mentee relationship is a unique perspective. Someone who has something interesting to say — or something familiar put in an interesting way — can ensure that their message sticks with you long after it is heard.
Find Someone Who Is a Good Listener, and a Good Observer
Listening will be the most important function a mentor fulfills. If they cannot closely listen to you, they end up making incorrect assumptions or delivering irrelevant advice. They must be able to truly hang on your every word and recall those words later in order to offer meaningful insight into your life.
A mentor should also pick up on cues that do not come directly out of your mouth. By being a good observer and reading in between the lines, they can analyze a situation from an unexpected angle and deliver true insight rather than just a superficial reaction.
Look to Someone Who Can Help You Come to Your Own Conclusions
While a mentor guides and imparts advice, they should rarely tell you in explicit terms what actions to take. There is a strong misconception that mentors should spoon-feed their ward all the answers, but enabling you to discover the answer yourself is a far more important activity for long-term skill building.
A great mentor should also challenge your assumptions with tough questions, although they should never dismiss your thoughts, feelings and intentions outright.
Seek Someone Who Shares a Complementary Learning Style, Business Approach or World View
Having someone who complements your learning style or business approach can often take an “opposites attract” narrative. But, at the same time, you should always somehow be able to relate to their commentary or their perspective.
If you spend half your mentoring sessions internally disagreeing with their observations and conclusions, then that is time effectively wasted.
Learn Another Critical Career Boosting Skill: Improving Your Presentations
While engaging in productive mentor-mentee relationship, you can master another critical career building activity by reading our post on how to improve your presentation skills.