How to choose a mentor

Introduction

image showing crows on a multi choice road signMentors come in many shapes and sizes with varied levels of experience. Some may be suitable for you, others not. Some you will be able to achieve rapport with, others may make you feel uncomfortable. When you choose the right mentor, it can be a very uplifting experience and give a lifetime benefit.

The exercise here is to match your requirements with the experience of the mentor, while at the same time having rapport. Your mentor must be genuinely interested in your success, otherwise they are merely an independent advisor. You must be confident in the mentor’s professional expertise and it is  unlikely to be found in someone who doesn’t have a few wrinkles and grey hair.

Setting goals

You must clearly understand what you want from the mentoring experience.  Is it a pay rise, promotion, upskilling, improved personal relationships, improved communication skills or anything else?

If you need to improve in an area it doesn’t mean you necessarily need a mentor, maybe you just need to attend a course, read a book or do other research.

To help you develop your understanding, please complete this sentence:

 I need a mentor to help me to  …………………………………..

 by providing……………………………………………………….

 that will result in ……………………………………………………

 by this date………………………………………………………….

 Choosing the Mentor

What qualities are important to you in a mentor? What would make you feel comfortable, and how does your mentor rate against your qualities or criteria? This is an example of a checklist I would prepare to rate a potential mentor. Please make up your own checklist and rate your potential mentor.

  Mentor Rating – Circle one
Quality 1= poor 5=excellent
Interested in  My Success 1 2 3 4 5
Industry experience 1 2 3 4 5
Experience aligns with my skills gap 1 2 3 4 5
Good communication skills 1 2 3 4 5
Ability to reflect and understand 1 2 3 4 5
Highly recommended 1 2 3 4 5
Listening skills 1 2 3 4 5
Diagnostic skills 1 2 3 4 5
Rapport 1 2 3 4 5
Personal presentation 1 2 3 4 5
High Integrity 1 2 3 4 5
Inspiring to try new methods 1 2 3 4 5

 You might not want to use a particular mentor if you don’t have a high level of trust in their integrity.

The mentor’s experience

An important consideration is that the mentor’s experience must match your needs; and you should ask probing questions to establish this. Again, be unafraid, because in most cases your or someone else are paying for this and you need to get a great outcome. Ask them for examples of their experience. If they are reluctant to communicate with you or are in any way evasive, move on. An experienced mentor will have lots of examples of mentoring others with your needs.

The first mentoring meeting

The first meeting is critical. Ask questions satisfy yourself that your criteria can be met. Trust your instincts – does this feel right? Be very frank about your expectations and address practical issues like:

  • costs
  • confidentiality
  • experience
  • number of sessions.

Sources

Ask for recommendations from colleagues who have a mentor or get a referral through a professional organisation. There is a lot of good advice on the internet and if you do not belong to a professional organisation in Australia, you can approach the Australian Institute of Management, who have loads of information and advice to offer with many experienced mentors who they match with clients very carefully.

With proper preparation you will reach a point where your research and advice sought will give you plenty of practical information to make the choice that is right for you.

 

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