Last month, I challenged you to reflect on your current mentoring relationships and consider whether they were offering you four basic things: support, introspection, access and opportunity. These four basic attributes should be offered consistently, freely and in the spirit of paying it forward. To recap, a true mentor offers:
- Support in times of triumph and in times of challenge
- Introspection for various critical incidents and events that happen in your career
- Access to spaces that you would not have access to or knowledge of on your own
- Opportunities that will help you get to the next level of your career and leadership goals
Mentoring should help you navigate your leadership and career goals as well as map out potential resources and decisions that you need to make to pursue your life’s work. This month, I want to take a closer look at the steps involved in selecting mentors, including ways to find potential mentors, questions to ask potential mentors, characteristics that help you decide to seek someone out as a mentor and ways to determine whether a potential mentor is a good fit for you.
Step 1: Do your research. When looking for a mentor, first think about the areas in which you need mentorship. Then research people who are in the field you are in or want to be in and those who have a specific expertise that you want. Remember that your needs will change as you develop and grow professionally and personally, so your mentoring needs will also change. The mentoring relationship is a two-sided relationship that requires commitment and buy-in from both parties. In this first step, you need to do a realistic assessment regarding the areas of growth that you need mentorship in and begin to research potential mentors who demonstrate the growth that you seek.
Step 2: Ask questions. When looking for a mentor, ask questions of your mentor candidates. These questions include, but are not limited to, the following:
- What do you believe mentoring entails?
- What do you like most about mentoring?
- How do you check in with your mentee?
- How do you allow the mentee to evolve in the relationship?
The answers to each of these questions can help you determine whether the potential mentor’s philosophy on mentorship aligns with your view of mentoring and mentorship.
Another important question to ask is how the potential mentor decides whether a potential mentee is a good fit or not. Also, ask the potential mentor how they would let the mentee know if the person is or isn’t a good fit. When the potential mentor answers these questions, listen to learn if their views mirror how you would like to be treated.
When asking these questions, you are looking for transparency and openness on the potential mentor’s part. Here are a few other questions that you can use to begin interviewing potential mentors:
- What suggestions do you have for those looking for a mentor?
- What questions do you think potential mentors should be able to answer?
- How will you know whether you and your mentee are on the right path?
- What do you provide as a mentor?
- What areas do you hold expertise in?
Step 3: Determine if you and the potential mentor are a good fit. Weigh the potential mentor’s answer to each question and think about whether you feel these answers mirror where you want to go and what you want to achieve. Don’t be afraid to eliminate someone from your original list; remember, you are looking to gain specific skills.
These three steps can help you determine the answers to two central questions: What do I think are the most important characteristics in a mentor? And is this potential mentor a good fit for me? For this month’s challenge, I want you to ask yourself these same questions to evaluate your current mentors to see if they are still meeting your needs. I also want you to think about whether you need additional mentors to help you better meet your needs and achieve your life’s work. Until next month!