Knowing how to choose a mentor – the right mentor – is critical to the success of your mentorship. Mentoring is a mutually fulfilling opportunity for mentees and mentors, so the strength of your partnership can make or break your ability to meet your mentorship goals. Ensure a successful outcome; find a mentor who communicates well, compliments your style and helps increase your effectiveness using these tips.
A strong mentorship partnership helps ensure a successful outcome, so obviously, it’s important to know what to look for in a mentor! Mentees must consider these key factors when selecting the right mentor:
1. Know your mentorship goal
2. Find a mentor matching your communicator style
3. Utilize your most effective mentoring process
4. Follow your ideal process flow
5. Deliver on your half of partnership
6. Utilize free tools and resources
7. Create useful mentoring activities
Mentees must develop a mentorship program to meet their individual needs, which may include a broad objective or focus on a specific interest or skill set. One of the best ways to reach your professional goals is by partnering with a mentor who is willing to help, has information you need, and delivers it in a manner that is easy for you to understand and relate to.
Your perfect mentor is not a perfect human being! However, your perfect mentor is someone whose life and/or work gave them the expertise to help you. When you have identified someone as a potentially great mentor, also ask yourself if this person is someone to look up to and consider whether this possibly perfect mentor is someone with values similar to your own.
When you embark upon a mentor and mentee relationship with someone you would like to learn from, you’ll get to know each other better, set some ground rules for communication and timing, and then set your mentorship goals.
The ultimate goal may be something like career progression or determining your path. You may need help with your job search or specific assistance such as strengthening certain skills, developing a stronger resume or improving interviewing skills. A mentor is someone you may not know now, but they offer you time to ask questions and are willing help guide you. They also help you set SMART objectives to help you achieve that ultimate goal.
You want someone whose background and style compliment yours.
Finding someone to be your mentor is a process, but not a complicated process!
The mentor who can support you may not be in your field or may not even have the same skillset, but that right person will be able to communicate with you and motivate you. Someone in a different field may still be a perfect mentor for your career, so be open! Someone whose life or work allowed them to achieve success will provide valuable advice and encouragement.
Depending upon your objective, choosing the right mentor to help might also require considering alternative forms of mentoring. You don’t need to follow a traditional mentoring program. Sometimes working within a group setting or gaining support from several mentors who each have a specific, desired skill set works even better. It depends upon your goal and the situation. No matter the process, mentors appreciate the opportunity to be involved and share their knowledge and experience.
A typical mentor/mentee relationship used to be one on one and in person. As corporate communications and schedules evolved though, so did mentoring programs. Mentoring is a win-win situation!
Understanding your options will help you create a strong partnership and make the most of your mentoring experience. Your ideal mentor will provide you with the necessary professional advice, support and guidance.
Our expectations of the ideal mentoring program have expanded, and the mentor-mentee relationship and process continues to evolve. Mentors are not executive search firms, and they are not miracle workers, but they are sincere, skilled, and in your court.
There are best mentoring practices, but the most ideal program will be well thought out and tailored to your individual needs.
1. KNOW YOUR MENTORSHIP GOAL
Know what you are ultimately looking to achieve.
- Career development
- Changing your career path
- Developing a resume
- Practicing interviewing skills
- Improving your presentation skills
- Preparing for a role in management
- Becoming a cross-functional resource within your company
- Assimilating into a new cultural environment
- Helping diversify your business
- Another personal business need
2. MATCH YOUR PERSONAL COMMUNICATION STYLE
Consider the most ideal and comfortable type of interaction for you.
- In person on site
- In person off site
- Virtual on video
- Conference calls
- In writing – emailing updates & sharing work samples
- Utilizing mood boards
Options are especially important to consider if your mentor does not live in the local area, travels extensively, or if a language or other geographic factor must be considered.
With a set agreement to commit and a plan in place, alternate forms of activity and meetings work well.
You can still perform mock presentations, walk through practice interviews, and network. It’s common. It’s effective. You can get the same work done, learn about each other, and chuckle at your virtual handshake!
3. UTILIZE THE MOST BENEFICIAL MENTOR PROCESS
Consider the most beneficial type of mentoring process.
- Traditional, one on one mentoring
- Peer mentoring
- Business mentoring
- Reverse mentoring
- Virtual mentoring
- School alumni mentoring
- Local group or advisory board
- Social media or online group
- Hired formal mentoring program service
- Create your own
4. FOLLOW YOUR IDEAL PROCESS FLOW
What process flow is most comfortable and most likely to help you reach your objective?
A formal mentorship program – typically set up through school, work, or a service provider may be highly structured. However these are not always available or may not meet your personal needs.
Mentorships may be:
- Structured – use your creativity and adapt to your own vision and need
- Unstructured – fewer rules but still includes your commitment, plan, and objective
- Informal mentoring – basically, support is given when asked for / given as needed
- Vertical – senior level mentor supporting junior level mentee
- Horizontal – similar to peer to peer but tends to be cross functional, and is an effective way to use team members to promote a healthier environment and increase retention.
- Transformative – promotes long term growth and positioning such as succession planning and developing future mentors
- Situational – typically short term, focused on an immediate need. This process can be followed for all levels of learning but is more typical with senior leaders.
- Flash – one time meeting, often in group setting
Be creative! For example, there’s no reason why a traditional mentorship cannot include situational and flash mentoring components.
5. DELIVER ON YOUR HALF OF THE PARTNERSHIP
Both the mentee and the mentor own half of this relationship. Your half includes the following responsibilities.
- Own your goal and objectives
- Have a sense of purpose
- Act with sincerity
- Embrace change and new ideas
- Honor your commitment to show up and follow through
- Be willing and able to listen
- Find, use and/or create process support tools
6. UTILIZE FREE TOOLS AND RESOURCES
Tools and resources can help shape and guide your process, plus spur creativity and additional connection.
- Words to say and questions to ask to get to know each other
- Agreement to partner
- Plan outline, including how to set expectations and goals
- Conversation starters to use throughout the mentoring process
- Meeting agendas help maintain focus and create next steps
- Monthly check-in outlines will help track your progress
- How to close the relationship
- How to say thank you
7. CREATE USEFUL MENTORING ACTIVITIES
Mentoring activities move you toward your mentorship goal. Some activities you’ll do alone and discuss; others you’ll consider participating in together. It may be helpful to create a list.
DON’T JUST GO THROUGH THE MOTIONS. You have personal and professional career goals to meet!
* Meet monthly (or as agreed upon) in person or virtually
- Follow up on objectives and progress
- Bring up new insights gleaned and new questions
- Share different perspectives
* Job shadowing
- You shadow your mentor or your mentor shadows you
- Attending corporate meetings together
* Attend an offsite networking event
* Attend a virtual conference
* Attend or participate in a community event
* Use life skills. Learn to shop on a budget or how to do laundry or organize.
* Join a book club or agree on developmental books to read/discuss – Includes news, podcasts, any informative source
BE OPEN TO IDEAS
There are important factors to consider when choosing a mentor, and there are just as many important factors to consider when choosing your activities!
Align with the person who is easy to understand and ask your mentor to brainstorm with you! This person must be willing to share and listen, right? So be ready to share your ideas too! Make sure you are explicit; then select activities to help you gain experience and help you reach your mentorship goals. This time may involve discussion, observation, or physically taking part in an activity.
Choosing useful mentoring activities provides an excellent opportunity to be creative while ensuring a positive outcome. You need to be open to new ideas and do not be afraid to ask for feedback.
Your ideal mentor has the experience to help and also the skills to help you. This person may be a corporate employee or leader, or they may be an entrepreneur. Their title does not matter.
What matters is that your mentor has the skills and the ability to provide insights gained through their chosen career. On your end, respect is critical. You want to maintain the relationship!
Build a list of potential mentors as you consider your ultimate goal, but understand the timing may not be right for some. The successful person you identify as the best fit must be someone who is willing to share and willing to see this program through.
As half of a mentoring relationship, you must be willing to learn more from someone whose position is to suggest and guide. You must be just as good of a communicator and have the same willingness to follow through. You and your mentor should complement each other’s personal style.
The person you are looking for isn’t there to accomplish your goal for you, but your success matters to them. A good mentor – an effective mentor – will offer guidance and honest feedback. Take ownership of your mentoring process by preplanning and considering the 7 key factors we described. Clearly define what you want to accomplish, and seek out someone who is a good guide and wants to help you grow. Like any other relationship, communication and a high level of trust are of utmost importance.
Once you select your mentor, you’ll get to know each other and agree upon your preferred methods of communication and convenient timing. You’ll then move immediately into creating your mentoring plan. By knowing what to expect and implementing a plan designed to help you achieve your objectives, your mentoring relationship will begin on a positive note and lead to a better relationship.
Appreciate your mentor, and be sure to share your gratitude for their time.
Good luck! Soon you’ll travel from being a mentee to a role model who is able to provide guidance for others!