Finding a mentor is one of the best strategies for navigating a career today. Mentors provide professional knowledge and experience to less experienced workers, hoping to teach lessons and impart wisdom they have received over their own careers’ lifetimes. For a mentee, pairing up with the right mentor has many benefits. The best mentors will share key insights that are applicable to their mentees, along with business and life skills that align with a mentee’s overarching goals.
Taking the time to thoughtfully choose the right mentor cannot be understated. The following three qualities are ones to look for in a mentor in order to find the right fit.
Knowledge and Experience
Ideally, a mentor’s knowledge and experience will speak for itself. He or she should have a good amount of time in the industry under his or her belt in order to best advise mentees as they wade through their careers and industries. A mentor should have lessons learned from mistakes made, stories of success and failure, and some key steps he or she took in order to get to where they are today. One of the most important qualities in a mentor, however, is the acknowledgment that he or she is never done learning. This is an excellent example to set for the mentee, illustrating that even when a person has achieved success, there is always room to grow.
A mentor-mentee relationship is built on honesty and trust—that the mentor is being honest with the mentee about the realities of the industry and experiences within it. Sometimes a mentee is going to ask a question that just doesn’t have a good answer; perhaps the mentee is gunning for a promotion that the mentor knows they have no business getting. The mentor has a responsibility to be straight with the mentee in order for the mentee to get the most out of the relationship.
Although a mentor needs to have a healthy dose of reality, he or she should still be a positive role model in the mentee’s life. He or she should be optimistic for the mentee’s future and about the industry’s future in general. The mentor should be an aspirational figure in the mentee’s life, someone to whom the mentee can look up and try to emulate. This positive spirit will make the mentor more approachable and the mentee more willing to learn from the mentor’s experiences. Positivity is the key!
Burchard & Associates is an executive search firm specialized in accounting and finance recruiting across all business sectors, including manufacturing, retail, wholesale/distribution, healthcare, financial services, and more.