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Mentor—Finding the Right One

Mentoring is about giving gifts – gifts of confidence, encouragement and respect.
ELIZABETH HOYLE, TRIMARK INVESTMENTS

When Odysseus embarked on his long journey in The Odyssey, he chose his wise friend Mentor to guard, guide, and teach his son, Telemachus. All of us can benefit from having someone to help us. But picking the right person is key, so that the end benefit will be achieved.

Not every smart, articulate, experienced person makes for a perfect mentor. Picking or being matched with the wrong person will produce limited results. In fact, the outcome could even be a career-limiting experience as your mentor might badmouth you in the organization. To the extent that you can choose your mentor, find someone who meets all or most of these criteria:

  1. Finding someone to mentor you successfully can take time. An ideal mentor will be someone who:

    • Does not work in your department. Find someone who can bring a whole new perspective to you, someone with different technical skills and work experiences.

    • Is more experienced than you. This usually goes with age, but not necessarily so. A person with experience will have moved between jobs, organizations, and industries. This will have given her more varied experiences. She will have made more mistakes and, it is hoped, has learned from them.

    • Is senior to you in the organization. This will enable him to bring a larger perspective to you, one that often escapes people "in the trenches."

    • Is humble. A humble person is not a know-it-all. Such a person is prepared to think before talking. Better still, she would look to you to answer some of your own issues rather than giving you the answer all the time and expecting you to "buy" it without question.

    • Facilitates problem-solving by acting as a sounding board. He is concerned with your growth. Therefore, he makes you think about answers and alternatives. When asked for answers, he throws the ball back to you with questions such as "Well, what do you think?" or "What are some of your options?"

    • Thrives on other people's successes. This person cares about you. She celebrates and finds joy in your achievements.

  2. Ideal mentors are people who

    • are great role models;

    • listen more than they talk;

    • enjoy learning from their protegés;

    • care about and value the relationship;

    • have a great attitude — are positive, upbeat, and optimistic;

    • care about honesty (they know how to give feedback that is frank and focuses on the problem, not your personality);

    • are tolerant (they accept you for who and what you are without wanting to change you).


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