How to Choose a Mentor

A mentor is someone whose life or work you value and admire, and whom you think might be a good guide. These days, a mentor can be any age, in any field, so we encourage you not to think of a mentor in traditional terms. Too often we limit our mentors to those in more senior positions. Don’t let a person’s age, title, or experience pigeonhole your thinking.

It is helpful to create a list of 2 or 3 potential mentors.  As you reach out, you may find one is too busy and unable to commit the time.

When creating your list of potential mentors, ask yourself the following four questions:

Do I look up to this person?
First and foremost, you should ask yourself if you admire this person for her or his achievements and industry experience. Your mentor should ideally be someone who shares your professional outlook and perhaps has even accomplished the goals you hope to achieve.

Am I able to work well with this person?
While you may have identified someone who meets your requirements for an ideal mentor, that person may not necessarily serve as a great partner. It’s critical to know that you can work and communicate well with the person who’s going to help guide your career.

The mentor must be supportive, communicative, inspiring and must feel that your needs are important. Know the person well before you ask him or her to become your mentor. Form a relationship first. Even if you think that the mentor you want is very knowledgeable, he or she might not necessarily be able to communicate their knowledge effectively.

Can this person guide me toward my professional goals?
Mentorship does not mean someone telling you what moves to make; it’s about someone encouraging you to find the answers yourself. A good mentor will guide, not advise; inspire, not motivate; critique, not judge; and share ideas and options, but not do it for you.

Is this person happy in his or her career?
Being good at something and doing well in your chosen career don’t necessarily mean you’ve achieved success. If a seemingly successful person is working at a job he or she secretly hates, it will show — and that person is probably not your ideal mentor. Seek out someone who truly loves his or her work.