What a Mentor looks like

Here are some tips to make the most of your mentoring relationships.


Mentor’s don’t knock on your door –

Guess who is the first and foremost incumbent in your growth and development?

You are. (or should be…)

If you are happy doing the same old trick over and over again, you probably don’t bother to worry about how could you learn or improve. On the other hand, if you like to learn new ways of doing things or to improve what you do, you probably think about how you can improve. 

There are a hundred ways to do that. However looking for a mentor is one of the most powerful ones. A mentor is not a teacher who gives you formal lessons on something. It is not a consultant who coaches you for a fee. 

It is someone to whom you have a relationship and from whom you can learn something. A mentor is someone who makes you grow through his or her own experience and skills. You define what do you want to learn and why you think you can learn whatever you want from this person.

They are usually good at what they do (and what you want to learn). They are not wannabes waiting for you to appear so they can knock your door. You are tasked with making the most of whatever time you spend together with them to learn and grow. You are tasked with knocking on their door. So to speak.

Mentors come in different sizes and shapes –

Some companies offer the option to set up formal mentoring relationships with experienced peers. However from my perspective this is somewhat artificial and not necessarily good for your growth. And this is not how things happen most of the time. Most of the time a mentoring relationship is initiated in just the way any other relationship does, and it develops over time.

A mentor can be a former MBA classmate which became your friend and to whom you meet from time to time. You share drinks, good talks, career experiences and plans.

A mentor can be your grandfather when he used to tell you the things he did to succeed in his career.

A mentor can be a relative which you see from time to time and which offers sound advice. 

A mentor can be a former manager.


Mentors welcome fresh ideas –

Since they are good at what they do, it is probably because at some point they acquired the habit of learning and improving themselves. So they are pretty open for you to share your own ideas and the things you are doing to improve yourself, or the new tricks you've learned.

This means that you should bring something to the table. Just because they are more experienced or skilled than you, that doesn't exempt you from sharing what you know or what you discover on your own path. Quite to the contrary.

Do you prefer a formal or informal mentoring relationship? What is the most important thing you have learned from a mentor? What ideas have worked better for you?

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