You can’t seek out effective mentors if you don’t know what mentoring really is (or isn’t), and how mentors can be valuable in your life.
Keep in mind: A mentor is not a mentor is not a mentor.
There is no one, clear definition for what a “mentor” is and what “mentoring” is all about. Different mentors can play different roles in your life. The unifying characteristic is, through their guidance, example or encouragement, they enrich and add to your development as a professional.
To help you identify a mentor, look at the following six roles he | she can fulfill in your life:
- Help realize full potential. This characteristic is really at the heart of mentoring. Look at these individuals as your career allies. They see in you potential, and by giving of their wisdom, help nudge you toward fulfilling all you’re capable of doing with your natural abilities and aptitudes.
- Set an example. These role models boast a hefty toolkit jam-packed with tools they have picked up throughout their career—those elements you can apply to your life.
- Provide honest feedback. As an early careerist or emerging leader, you need individuals who don’t just soothe or coddle your ego. I like to say feedback is the “breakfast of champions.” This type of mentor cares enough about you and your success to nourish you with genuine and candid critique that, though hard to hear, will be crucial to your professional performance and character development.
- Extend opportunities. These mentors, by virtue of experience or professional clout, may be in a position to grant opportunities and open doors for you. Leveraging their contacts and reputation, this relationship can pay off in a big way by setting you up for later success.
- Help others help themselves. Great mentors ask questions of their mentees. They listen. They probe. By doing so, they help to breed self-awareness in the mentee. As I’ve talked about before, this understanding and awareness of one’s self builds the most effective leaders.
- Challenge expectations. These individuals push you out of your comfort zone and are consistently raising the bar in a way that fosters growth.
Hopefully, I’ve challenged your expectations or preconceived notions about mentoring and mentors.
When you start to see the many roles these individuals can play in your life, you’ll open the door to other contacts that you, perhaps, were closed off to previously.
Through their wisdom, positions of power, encouragement and substantial, quality feedback, these relationships can have a profound and lasting impact on your professional and personal development.