Of all the resources professionals have at their disposal, mentors are arguably one of the most helpful. Articles, books, and trial and error can be great teachers when you’re navigating your career, but nothing can replace advice from people who have navigated similar challenges. But how do we find a mentor? What qualities should we look for? How do we take the first step?
During my undergraduate studies, I was fortunate to attend Sports Car Club of America Autocross events as a driver and a volunteer corner worker, where I found unlikely mentorship from national championship winning drivers. During these weekends, the drivers taught me a mnemonic device that has stuck with me: “Aim for success. AIM = Awareness + Intention + Measurement.” I think developing our AIM is what we seek mentors to facilitate.
Why is it important to have more than one mentor?
As Glenn Tullman writes in his article “Don’t Choose a Mentor” on Forbes.com, “You don’t want to get locked into one mindset just because that is how your mentor always approached things.” With just one mentor, our AIM becomes too narrow. Tullman continues, “Instead of choosing a single mentor, develop a network of advisors who are of mixed demographics, in varied industries and at different stages of their careers. Traditionally you would turn to one mentor for all your questions; a network allows you to gather strong advice from the person best suited to the task at hand.”
Where can you find new mentors?
The Broader Engagement program facilitated a Mentor-Protégé relationship but building a network of mentors means taking the first step to identify new mentors in your life. While its important to seek out some senior, accomplished individuals as mentors, Tullman suggests that a mentor need not fit this criteria to be effective as a member of your advisory board. Here are five more types of professionals that Tullman suggests as good mentor candidates:
- Peers at different companies
- Your employees
- People who have struggled and persevered
What qualities should you look for in a mentor?
When choosing a mentor, it is important to look for qualities beyond a resume or CV. While someone can be very accomplished in their field or even a good mentor to others, it doesn’t mean they will necessarily be the right fit for you. As Larry Ambrose writes in “Choosing a Mentor,” it is important to choose a mentor that understands your needs and is interested in your success. Remember that you are building a relationship, so it’s important to also find someone you can communicate well with.
Continue to part two of Choosing Mentors for your Advisory Board here.