There is plenty advice out there on the importance of choosing a career mentor especially at the onset of one’s career. While there may be great benefits of the right career mentorship what really determines how much value you get from it is the quality of the career mentor you end up with. A career mentor doesn’t just give you advice; the right one challenges you to do better and also opens up and expands your network possibilities.
Whether you are fresh out of school and need someone to help you set off on a successful career path or you are already bit experienced in a path and intend switching careers these tips are to help you qualify the key factors your prospective mentor should possess.
What use is a mentor that is so busy he can’t reply your emails or even schedule a 20-minute phone call once in a while? Time is an important part of mentorship; anyone who accepts to mentor a younger, inexperienced person already understands the implication (he/she would have to give some time).
So if someone is to be your mentor and rarely makes time to even listen to your questions and stuff you need to clear with him/her you are better off finding another mentor.
Building Ngcareers as a start-up has been tough and would have been tougher without the mentor we have. Our Advisor (I think I prefer that to mentor) is one hell of a very busy entrepreneur in the technology services industry. He travels quite a lot but still finds time to schedule 30 minutes Skype chats that sometimes spiral into hours eventually whenever I needed to reach out to him.
That’s what an advisor/mentor should be able to offer you; some bit of time to listen to what you are doing and proffer ideas based on their experience and knowledge.
Some would call it forthrightness and I agree. You need a mentor/advisor who doesn’t act or talk like a politician.
So when you are deep in trouble,you’ll be sure to get some cutting and strongly blunt advice on what you may not be doing right.
Does your proposed advisor/mentor look like the type to never tell it to you as it is or hold back something from you? He is probably not right for you.
One quality of a great mentor/advisor is that any day you have a lengthy talk with him you are bound to think and actually learn more.
For some months we had been working on some sort of product pivot as we tried to come up with a more sustainable business model. I decided I needed to share our ideas and dilemma with my advisor.
After a couple of weeks trying to get an acceptable time and date for a call we finally agreed a particular Friday. He took the Skype call from his London hotel; a 30-minute call extended to 1 hour plus as we talked (or rather he talked and I listened). Each scenario I raised he tore into it and asked questions concerning our B2B end of operations that got me scribbling on my pad as we talked.
The questions and hard-hitting issues he raised helped us fine-tune the ideas we were working on and certainly helped put us on the current path to building a sustainable business model.
One of the reasons you have an advisor/mentor especially in business is that you sometimes take advantage of his expanded network (when absolutely necessary). He must have some good professional network levels that you can tap into when the need arises.
Most times they know someone who knows someone who can provide you with the service or information you need. This is one reason your mentor should be an active, experienced professional in your industry.
Goal and Career Alignment
Is he someone who can easily understand and offer good insights on your career goals and aspirations? If you are pursuing a career in human resources management you surely would need to reach out to professionals in that field mostly. You definitely need access to people with knowledge of what works in the career path you have chosen and understand what you intend achieving.
This is an important point; as you would surely get less value spending all your time with someone who (no matter how successful they are) do not understand the workings of your chosen path nor has the passion for it.
Track Record and High Standards for Performance
This is an obvious point. To be successful in any given field you certainly have to make people who have achieved some level of success your primary advisors.
Your advisors are people that have probably failed several times but have learnt over time what works and what doesn’t and have pushed on with their improving knowledge and skills to attain an enviable level of success. Those are the guys that can make you think more for yourself and challenge you to be better than you currently are.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Michael Zhang