5 Things to Look for in a Mentor

It can be easy enough to offer advice, but what about asking for it? It’s no secret that asking for guidance can make even the most seasoned professional feel inexperienced and inadequate.

For that exact reason, when you ask for help, make sure you’re asking the right person. Keep reading to discover what to look for when searching for one of the most important persons you’ll meet in your career - your mentor.

Experience

It can feel gratifying to converse with your peers about your professional questions, struggles, and wins, but you’ll want to seek out someone towards the top of the food chain when it’s time for you to level up your career.

If you’re looking to get promoted within your current organization, search your company’s employee database to seek out the person who has your dream job and ask them if they’re willing to talk about the role and what it took to get there over a cup of coffee. The same applies to changing your career, whether that means title or industry; search for your dream company and/or dream job title on LinkedIn and send a cold email to whoever fits the bill. Most people will be flattered that you chose them as a resource and will be more than happy to let you pick their brain.

Confidence

Someone may hold the most senior position at their company or even in their field, but that doesn’t mean much if they don’t have the confidence to match their title. A person who lacks pride and confidence in what they do isn’t likely to give you much good advice; they’re much more likely to look to you for a self-esteem boost, or will just advise you to change your goals and run in the other direction.

Honesty

You deserve someone who has enough courage to tell you the bad news and the good news, not just the latter. Honesty is one of the most important qualities you should look for in a mentor, and for the most part, anyone else you cultivate a relationship with. If you surround yourself with yes men, you’ll never truly know if what you’re doing is right and may never be able to reach your goals.

Compassion

Just as truth is an important part of the mentor-mentee dynamic, so is compassion. You may have a mentor with years of experience, an abundance of self-esteem, and a penchant for brutal honesty, but if they lack understanding and sympathy, run far away, and fast.

The person you look to for guidance should be just as willing to help you through the tough times in your career as they are to celebrate your accomplishments. Even if they don’t like to share these stories, every person who holds a position you envy endured their fair share of ups and downs, too. They’ve once been where you are today and should have enough tact and grace to be supportive, not rub it in your face.

Compatibility

Last but not least, your mentor should be someone who shares your values, understands your struggles, and, in short, just gets you. A well-off mentor who got to where they are with help from their parent’s network and finances may not mesh well with a low-income mentee who has to forge their own path, and pay for it, too. We’re not saying that it’s impossible to find a good mentor in someone who seems like your total opposite; we’re saying that the lack of common interests and beliefs may turn your relationship into something more adversarial than amiable.

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