5 Smart Strategies for Choosing the Right Mentor for You

right mentorMentors have helped me see many things differently. That includes what I want to accomplish in life and how to go after it, both personally and professionally. I truly believe I would not have gotten this far were it not for choosing the right mentor.

When choosing a mentor, I sometimes just knew if she or he was the right person for the job. Other situations led me to put a lot of consideration into it before starting a relationship.

In doing so, I’ve discovered some solid ways to determine if someone will make a good mentor for you. Here’s how:

Decide What You Need From a Mentor

In order to find the right mentor, I first had to know what I wanted out of the relationship. At different points in my life, those needs have changed. For example, when I was younger I needed a mentor to help me become an entrepreneur. Now that I am one, I have a mentor to help me continually. Specifically, they help assess where I’m at in life and what I could do differently. Most topics are personal, like how to increase my productivity, balance, social good and personal wealth.

So start by generating a list of short-term and long-term career goals. Then determine what skills and knowledge you will need to get there. Next, list what type of benefits you perceive a mentor could provide. Decide if expertise in a particular industry is a must. Or, maybe general experience and knowledge will serve you best regardless of your career path.

Know What You Want to Ask Your Mentor Candidates

Asking the right questions can help you narrow down your list of potential mentors. Their answers will provide you with a sense of what they would be like to work with. They also tell you what benefits they could offer. Here are a few I 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 the Right Mentor

There are key characteristics to look for in a mentor that I have found have helped me get where I wanted to be. They include empathy, consistency, patience, maturity, honesty, openness, accessibility, strength, the ability to be savvy, and effective communication. Meet with them 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,” I have asked others for input on certain people I was considering to mentor me. I’ve also had people approach me and ask my opinion on the subject. Referrals for mentoring really help 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 and Run It by Each Candidate

The responses I get to my partnership plan tell me a lot about what it would be like to work with a particular mentor. Those that stand out the most are the ones that give me their honest feedback, including what they would change about the plan. How they present their opinion tells me whether we would be compatible. They don’t have to agree with me, if anything, the best mentoring relationships are those where I was questioned about what I was proposing. 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.

Don’t rush the process of finding the right mentor, because you need to make sure it will work for the both of you. It may be good to set up a trial period after making your initial decision to test your intuition. If it doesn’t work out, keep some other candidates on the back burner to try out next.


For this post, YouTern would like to thank our friends at Business Collective!


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