Having a good mentor is a huge competitive advantage – no matter the industry. We’re all looking to improve and get ahead and having a mentor there to help guide and push you is an invaluable resource. A mentor is someone you need to respect, who also respects you, and is truly invested in watching you grow and ultimately succeed.
I don’t think the mentor-mentee relationship needs to be formal. In my opinion, informal mentoring is the most genuine form! In a structured mentor relationship, I feel that the mentor and mentee both will show up to meetings with a half-ass agenda simply to satisfy the other by showing them that they did some work to prepare for the meeting. That’s not genuine! And I would bet that outside of their regular meetings, they don’t communicate much and are pretty distant. To me, that’s not what a good mentor is.
A good mentor to me is the one who calls you randomly and says, “how was today?” Someone who will answer when you call at 7pm because you’re pissed off and need to vent. Someone who acts as a psychologist and therapist when you’re meeting with them. They are a phenomenal sounding board for ideas, and someone that challenges you to think deeper about your goals and why you truly want to accomplish them. I don’t want my mentor to show up with a cheesy agenda. I want them to be laser-focused on me, willing to talk about what’s on my mind, and ready to offer great advice and insight.
Looking back at the mentors I’ve had in my life, there are a few qualities they all share. Number one, they were all phenomenal listeners. When I talk they listen, they are responsive, and are able to offer good insight. Number two, they make themselves available. I had meetings scheduled with them but I’m a pain in the butt and would bother them throughout the week. Of course they didn’t love it, but they were there for me, and that proves to me their commitment to me and my success! They are also experienced. Having the ability to come to them with questions and leverage their experience has been a massive value add for me.
If you’re looking for a mentor, congrats on taking a huge step in your professional development. Your company may provide you with a mentor. If they do, great! But make sure you feel 100% comfortable with that person. If you can’t be vulnerable with them and you don’t feel that they are a good fit, you need to find a REAL mentor. Like I said earlier, it doesn’t need to be a formal structured engagement. But it needs to be someone you respect and who wants to watch you grow and be their every step of the way to help you.