Professional Mentoring 101, Part 2: How to Choose a Professional Mentor
The philosopher Aristotle wrote, “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.” To me, this means everyone needs a coach of some sort to help them navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of career acclimation and advancement. In this blog I will refer to coaches as mentors. Having come to the conclusion in Part I of this series that mentors are necessary fixtures in our professional lives, the question now is, how do we choose a good mentor? This seems like a relatively easy take but in fact takes some strategizing on behalf of the mentee. Here are some tips to remember when choosing a mentor.
- Make sure the person has some level of knowledge and expertise you do not possess. You would not want to pick someone at the same stage as you as a mentor with the expectation they will help you grow professionally.
- Do not be afraid to choose a famous or extremely successful mentor. Your mentor does not always have to know they are your mentor. They can be someone you observe from a distance. You may have adopted them as a mentor because of their oratorical ability or fashion skills, which may not require you to ever meet them.
- Be flexible. Some people are uncomfortable with the mentor-mentee relationship for various reasons. Thus, you do not always have to establish a formal mentor-mentee relationship. You could just invite the person to lunch once a month or even bi-annually. At lunch, be sure to ask your mentor questions you want to know.
- Bring something to the table. Steve Harvey (founder of the Steve Harvey Mentoring Program for Young Men) says that to catch the attention of your supervisor find out what your manager is not good at and become great at it. The same can be said for your mentor. This gives your mentor incentive to share information with you because the relationship is not purely one-sided.
Armed with this knowledge, do some goal searching to discover what you want and need to learn. Then, set out to find mentors. To help you with this the university maintains a Global Mentor Network which is housed in the Quad (the university’s online student community). To further research the program, send a formal inquiry requesting more information to firstname.lastname@example.org .