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How to find (and keep) a good mentor

How to find (and keep) a good mentor

Hindsight is a beautiful thing. Beautiful and irrelevant. Still, hindsight, if nurtured, turns to wisdom, and that’s powerful. Recently I published a blog post called ‘Why mentors matter’. In it I wrote about how you might go about building the right support base upon which you can thrive. The premise being, with a mentor you can tap into their wisdom and save yourself from having to utter the words “hindsight is a beautiful thing” too often. I believe mentors, if leveraged properly, help you grow and avoid disappointments.

Upon sharing this post with one of my mentors, he suggested I dig a little deeper into the topic, as it’s one thing to know mentors are helpful, it’s another to know where to find a good one and how to retain them! It’s a universally relevant message because no matter who you are, or at what level, you should never stop learning from others.

There is a common misconception that the formative years are about finding yourself. I contest, they’re actually about unearthing who you want to be. That’s a very different situation and I think it goes a long way to finding fulfilment – what I believe is the foundation for balance, and central to success. When you have a goal, you have something to aim for. It’s then that everything else falls into place. You have more focus and energy, and you are prepared to take more risks! And I really feel strongly that fortunate favours the brave. This process of self-actualisation never ends. Culturally within the workforce, the benefits of fostering it are compelling.

Where to look for your mentor

Part of discovering who you want to be is looking for qualities you admire in other people – this is the first step towards finding a good mentor! There are lots of places these qualities might be evident. I find that what you read, as well as what you watch on Youtube, can point you in the right direction, but I canvas that by saying it should only be a reference point. If you see a good online talk or blog, it doesn’t mean they’ll be a great mentor. First, try and catch the person live. While it’s not exclusively true, it’s very hard to have an ‘online only’ mentor. I recommend ‘face time’ to determine whether their words stack up in person and on more than one occasion. The extension of this caveat being they are physically accessible to meet with you on a regular basis.

The other obvious place you will find mentors is at work. Remember, these mentors don’t have to be in your division, team, or your superior. Look for behavioural attributes you think are things that will help you be the person you envisage you’d like to be. Watch when they speak, and when they say nothing. How they handle situations and people is great mentoring fodder.

Thirdly, I’d suggest looking out into your community to see who challenges you to be the best you that you can be. There are lots of inspiring people out there, so don’t limit yourself! If you can’t think of community leaders you could learn from, the first thing you need to do is spend more time out in community!

How to keep your mentor now you have one

The next part of the question is, how do you keep a mentor? Or, how do you foster a positive and productive, mentor/mentee relationship? Because it is not a passive thing – you need to drive it!

For me it boils down to three things:

  1. Are you willing to put in the time to meet? And are you willing to make it a consistent connection? I’d say at the very least it needs to be a couple of hours a month.
  2. Are you willing to have your ego bruised? Because it will be from time to time if you, and they, are honest. If they aren’t offering you a different perspective, it’s unlikely to be a fruitful relationship.
  3. Are you willing to share your goals, fears, and progress? Because this not only helps them understand you better, but it also acknowledges how much you value them. Be real!

If you have got these three things, you are on your way to a solid mentoring situation. This then leads to the next part of the equation, which I will cover in my next post: How to tell what advice to take?

More reading:

Look up, listen, and learn – career inspiration is all around you
If you want a great next role, get ill first!
Do you have the courage to take one simple, life-changing action every day?

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