Lailah Gifty Akita once said, “every great achiever is inspired by a mentor.” Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos’s careers and businesses all required the touch of a mentor to reach greater heights. 

 In one of his interviews, Richard Branson said, “It’s always great to get a helping hand at the beginning. I wouldn’t have succeeded in the airline industry, were it not for Sir Freddie Laker’s mentorship.”

While not everyone finds a mentor in the same mold as Sir Freddie, you can find a trusted advisor to give you the guidance you need to develop leadership and succeed in your career. In this article, we’ll show you how to find a good mentor. 

Importance of a Mentor in Professional Growth

Here are some of the ways mentors influence your professional growth: 

  • Mentors help you break the glass ceiling: Imposter syndrome and social politics in the corporate landscape are some of the things that inhibit career growth. A mentor gives you actionable insights on how to navigate situations like this so you move up the ranks.
  • Mentors help you make good career choices: As a junior employee, you may be lacking self-awareness and understanding of your professional abilities. A good mentor uncovers the right career path for you and advises you on the critical skills you need to acquire to fit into future roles. Employees who get mentorship early on are promoted five times than their counterparts without mentors.
  • Mentors help you rise above your limits: Do you limit your potential to what you believe about yourself? A mentor can help you rise above those limiting beliefs and give you the confidence boost you need to find yourself. As Shawn Hitchcok opines, “a mentor empowers you to see a possible future, and firmly believe it can be achieved.”

Do I Need A Mentor?

One thing to note is that different people need mentors for different reasons. When is the right time to look for a mentor? 

  • When you’re stuck and unhappy with where you are: Sometimes you may feel like your career is on the rocks. You feel stuck, confused, and don’t know what to do next. In this case, a mentor can help you figure out your next moves and bring your career back on track. Chances are the mentor has experienced it, too, and knows the best solution to problems you’re having. 
  • When you need a new perspective: When you slip into the hustle and bustle of working life, it’s easy to get comfortable with what you have achieved career-wise. To break out of that cocoon and reach maximum potential, you need a fresh perspective from someone wiser and more experienced.
  • When you need valuable guidance to get you going: When you’re emerging in your industry, figuring out how to sidestep hurdles can be tough and disorienting. The bad news: the knowledge you gained in school doesn’t offer a workaround to the corporate ladder problems. In that case, you’ll need advice from someone who has been in your shoes: your boss, colleague or manager can elevate your mind and help you develop new skills without going back to school.

What are the Traits of a Good Mentor?

A mentor can be anyone — your parent, manager, peer, friend, school alumnus, or boss. However, finding a mentor with the right traits isn’t easy. Some of the characteristics to look at when searching for a mentor include:

  • More Experience and Success than You: When looking for a mentor you want someone who will make you a better version of who you envision becoming. To that end, find a mentor who is more experienced and has a better track record of success than you. Bob Proctor says “a good mentor is that person who sees more ability and talent within you than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.”
  • You Share the Same Values: Experience isn’t the be-all, end-all trait of a good mentor. Someone might be more experienced than you, but if they share a different value system in leadership or management, they are not a good fit for you. 
  • Authenticity, Honesty, and Empathy: A good mentor is honest, authentic, creative, and empathetic in equal measures. They should offer constructive criticism without mincing words and also give you a pat on the back when you achieve career goals and milestones. 

How to Foster Mentor-Mentee Relationship

The mentor-mentee connection doesn’t have to be intense or formal. However, knowing what’s expected of you — as a mentor or mentee — makes things easier for both parties.

For the relationship to run smoothly, three things are critical:

  • Professionalism: Maintain a high level of professionalism. First and foremost, always show appreciation for the advice and motivation. Besides that, respect the mentor and make yourself available, when they need you. Moreover, when you say you’re going to follow a conversation, do so without hesitation. Some of these things may sound simple, but they go a long way in ensuring a thriving and mutual relationship. 
  • Frequency of Meeting: Knowing how and when to follow up on conversations is important. Keep in mind, your mentor is likely to be busy, so ask the mentor the best time to hop on a call or meet and set reminders for the same.
  • Where and How to Meet: In the digital era, you don’t always have to organize in-person meetings unless you prefer it. If it’s a light, non-pressure interaction you could do it over email, social media, or virtually. The most important thing is always to arrive or join meetings early to not waste the mentor’s time.