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A good mentor can power up your career

Learning and growing is a requirement to excel in a career.  There are many paths to growth. Arguably many of the most successful among us work very hard and take advantage of every opportunity they can find for education, training, practice, coaching and mentoring.  Each mechanism used to acquire knowledge provides a different path to knowledge.  A mentor helps the mentee to grow and develop by transferring their experience over a relatively long period of time.  The length of time the mentee and mentor interact and the level of intimacy can generate an enormous impact on the trajectory of a person’s career. Picking the correct mentor requires effort and forethought. A simple checklist can be used to test whether the person you are considering makes sense.  All of the items in the checklist are yes/no questions; there are no in-between or sort-of answers.

  • The potential mentor has experience that will benefit you.

When looking for a mentor they need to be more experienced than the mentee.  The mentee’s goal is to learn and grow from the interaction with the mentor.

  • Is willing to share his/her experience.

The mentor must be willing to share their experience.  Some people believe that sharing their experience lessens their value.

  • Is interested in being your mentor.

The potential mentor must be interested in mentoring you, not just interested in being a mentor in general.

  • Is interested in your success.

The mentor needs to be interested in your success.  This is typically a broad-based interest that is more than getting better at a specific job function.

  • Has the time to be your mentor.

Time and its alter ego, attention, are some of the most constrained assets any person has to spend. Just because there is a desire does not mean that the time required to be a mentor is available.

  • Has the capacity to communicate.

A good mentor must be able to connect with the person they are mentoring and transfer information and knowledge in a way that the mentee can understand.

  • Has the ability to listen.

A good mentor will listen, not just pause while their mentee is communicating.  Listening is more than just interpreting the sounds someone is making.  Listening includes taking into account all of the other queues, such as tone and body language.

  • Can synthesize his/her experience to provide guidance.

A good mentor will be able to provide guidance based on his or her experience based on the context of the mentee.  Simply put, the world is constantly changing. The past is important, but it needs to be interpreted in conjunction with the norms and philosophies of the present.

  • Willingness to participate in developing a plan for mentorship.

Mentors and mentees need to establish goals and a plan for achieving those goals.  Without an agreed upon plan, it will be difficult to know whether progress is being made or when it is time for the mentee to seek a different mentor.

Mentors can be very valuable at any point in a career if you have the right mentor.  Mentoring is not a simple transaction, there are nine attributes that need to be present to ensure effective mentoring.  If any item on the checklist above is not a “yes” look for another mentor.