Mentors have helped me see things differently about what I want to accomplish in life, and how to go after it, both personally and professionally. I truly believe I would not have gotten this far, were it not for my mentors.
When choosing a mentor, I sometimes just knew if she or he was the right person for the job, while other situations led me to put a lot of consideration into it, before starting a relationship. In doing so, I’ve discovered there are some criteria that you can use to determine if someone will make a good mentor for you.
Decide What You Need From a Mentor
In order to find the right mentor, I first had to know what I wanted out of the relationship. At different points in my life, those needs have changed. For example, when I was younger, what I needed was a mentor to help me determine if I could become an entrepreneur (and how). Now that I am one, I have a mentor to help me continually assess where I’m at in life, and what I could do differently to increase my productivity, balance, social good, and personal wealth.
Start by generating a list of short-term and long-term career goals, and determine what skills and knowledge you will need to get there. Then, list what type of benefits you perceive a mentor could provide. Decide if expertise in a particular industry is a must, or if you are seeking general experience and knowledge that can serve you regardless of your career path. This information will help you determine whether you want a mentor with experience and skills to guide you regardless of the industry, or if you want a mentor that specifically can help you grow within a certain business niche.
Know What You Want to Ask Your Mentor Candidates
Asking the right questions can help you narrow down your list of potential mentors. This is because their answers will provide you with a sense of what they would be like to work with, and what benefits they could offer.
Here are a few that I ask:
- What other types of mentoring have you done?
- What are the most important characteristics of a mentor?
- How would you describe your leadership style?
- What special skills or knowledge do you have that could help me?
- How much time do you have to devote to mentoring?
- Can you describe a typical mentoring program to me?
Murray Newlands is an entrepreneur, investor, business advisor, and a contributor at Forbes.com and Entrepreneur.com. He is co-founder of Influence People.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.