A valuable component of every journey to building a successful career is having a mentor; could be one or five, a “board of career consultants” if you will. While books, trainings and seminars are all a valuable part of navigating one’s career path, direct guidance from someone who has previously gone through a similar path (and succeeded) is of the utmost importance.

I had a friend tell me recently that he felt he had gotten to a point in his career where he could use mentorship from someone more experienced and it got me thinking about what factors needed to be considered before choosing a mentor.

Understanding that you need a mentor is a great step to building your career, it is however easy to make a number of mistakes trying to choose the right one(s). Here are a few things to consider when trying to decide which people are in the right position to mentor you.

  1. Their professional goals should be in line with yours

It is easy to choose a mentor based on your admiration of their character and works, on the other hand you may discover their professional achievements are not the same as those you would like to achieve.

For example, pursuing a career in the fashion industry and getting a mentor well vested in health who knows nothing about the fashion world might not be so helpful. While you may admire their work, your interests are not quite well aligned. A mentor has to have a good understanding of your career path and potential.

You need someone who will give you an insider’s perspective on the career and business you are focused on. This is not because your personal life is not important as well, it is that you have to be looking out for opportunities that would best serve both your career and personal life.

  1. They should be communicative

You may come across an individual who fits the bill for your professional accomplishments but who has trouble communicating effectively. You are going to have an open communication line with this person to make inquiries when you are facing a problem, you need someone who will be able to share their knowledge and experiences with you in an efficient manner. Not everyone has the patience for this sort of communication. Find someone who does.

  1. Their philosophies and values should be in line with yours

To maximize your productivity, you need a mentor who shares your world views and who will introduce you to philosophies that will improve you as a person.

You are going to spend a lot of time in conversation with your mentor, it is therefore important that their values are similar to yours, else you’ll spend more time than necessary on arguments with one party trying to “convert” the other.

Your mentor must be able to challenge you, introduce you to new perspectives while still encouraging and welcoming your suggestions as well.

  1. They should empathetic

You need a mentor who is willing to have more than a professional relationship with you. Someone who can relate to your fears and share tips on how they overcame their shortcomings. You are not entering a formal relationship, a mentor-mentee relationship is deeper. You have to be able to be real with your mentor.

  1. They should be invested in your personal growth

You need someone who will be invested in you and your growth regardless of their busy schedule. The occasional constructive criticism, pat on the back or reality check when you’re going off the rails is important.

Keep in mind you should not be disturbing them with any little problem that comes your way, it is however important that they can follow through on their commitments to helping you grow. You need to stay in regular contact with your mentor but they also need to be willing to keep the communication line open and honest (refer to our communicative point).

  1. They should be at the right level of qualification to mentor you

It’s pretty easy to get carried away by an individual who has done it all and who you would like to emulate. This individual might be overqualified to mentor you because their achievements are so far up, they would find it hard to come down to your level when communicating.

  1. Their connections should be helpful to you

A mentor with a good connection base will be most useful in fast tracking your career. You should be looking for someone who will further expand your network of influencers, introduce you to other possible mentors and networking events.

Choosing a mentor should be a well thought out endeavour which is why you should make sure to have all of your bases covered so you do not end up slowing down your journey instead of fast tracking it like you intended. Good luck!

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