What Makes a Good Mentor?

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One of the most valuable opportunities you can have in your career is mentorship. Having a mentor to help you navigate growth opportunities and support you at any stage of your career will truly help you learn and develop in your role, especially in today’s world where in-person interactions are more limited than before.

Mentors are specifically there for you (even if virtually) to help you succeed and to support you when you need guidance.

When you are looking for a mentor, your best bet is an expert in your chosen field (though experts outside your field can also offer value.) You also need to make sure this individual is the right fit for you and that ultimately both you and your mentor will benefit from the relationship.

So, what are the qualities that truly make a good mentor?

Top 5 Qualities to Look for in a Mentor

  • Great communication and listening skills
    Communication is the pillar of building and nurturing a relationship. Being able to have open conversations about your career, your aspirations and what you are aiming to get out of this mentorship are important topics to chat with your mentor about. You will want to feel comfortable in sharing your goals and any challenges you are worried about. Mentors will also be active listeners who will carefully listen and understand what their mentee’s needs are to fully understand and provide guidance when necessary.
  • Enthusiasm about being a mentor
    A good mentor is enthusiastic about guiding their mentee. It’s not productive to have a mentor who doesn’t have time to spend with you or worse, feels pressured into the role. Great mentors truly want people to succeed and want to provide the feedback and support necessary for their mentees to achieve their career goals.Able to provide constructive feedbackFeedback is necessary to grow, and mentors should be able to give you open and honest – but constructive – feedback when you need it. Sometimes you might need to be pushed outside of your comfort zone to truly succeed and your mentor should not be afraid to challenge you or give you advice on how you can learn and position yourself for the future.
  • Respect and empathy
    To truly flourish under this relationship, it’s critical that your mentor respects you and believes in your potential. Mentors should be open to understanding your perspective, your background, your career path, and your work style. Building a foundation of respect and trust creates empathy. Understanding that not everyone works the same and being able to approach situations without negative judgement is important in fostering a healthy mentorship.
  • Expertise in their field
    To truly get what you want out of your mentorship, it’s important to choose a mentor that is an expert and respected in their field or the field that you aspire to be in. Mentors should have the experience and leadership to help you move forward in your career because they will be able to provide guidance based on their experiences. Another plus is the connections they have made along the way that might benefit you and help you build your network and grow in your career.

Sometimes you will realize that you have already been fostering a mentorship relationship with your coworker or manager. However, if you have been looking for a mentor, don’t try to force it – building a relationship takes time and trust. Continue fostering relationships where you are constantly learning and growing from others and you’ll have a mentor before you know it!