Finding (or Becoming) a Great Mentor

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By Michelle Golden - An excellent post at Escape from Cubicle Nation is called How Can You Find a Great Mentor? in which author Pamela Slim discusses several facts about mentoring and offers must-read advice.

She notes there are three types of mentors:

  1. The technical expert
  2. The wise elder
  3. The few-steps-ahead peer

She then discusses the characteristics of a great mentoring relationship:

  • Encouragement. A good mentor will not only provide you with valuable advice, he or she will also help you deal with the fear and stress involved in growing professionally and making a big change.
  • Reciprocity. Enduring mentoring relationships have mutual benefit built into them. Your mentor may have years of experience in his or her field, but you also must bring something to the table. Perhaps they are less familiar with technology so you can help them build a website. Whatever you do, make sure they are not the only ones offering support and advice.
  • Chemistry. A mentoring relationship is just that, a relationship. You must truly enjoy each other's company if it is to last. If you put each other at ease and make each other laugh, that will make your time together energizing and engaging.
  • Gratitude. Don't ever forget to acknowledge and thank your mentor for his guidance and advice. Lavish gifts or hollow praise are not necessary. Good, old fashioned heartfelt thanks in the form of a handwritten note or sincere comment work the best. Let him know what his advice meant to you and how it changed the course of your life.
  • Mutual respect. Even if people are very well-known in their field, they don't want to be surrounded by feet-kissing grovelers who deem themselves "not worthy." Let me rephrase that. The mentors you want do not want to be surrounded by arse-kissers. Be confident and present yourself as a humble, less-experienced equal.

She then discusses where to find mentors and how to kick off the mentoring relationship. Where to find mentors is an important topic all its own. I've never been comfortable with the notion that a firm can "appoint" a mentor for new team members.

On the contrary, smart people prefer to select their own members, if you please, and they probably are not the people to whom they report!

In fact, I just read a reference to this in a PRSA article called "Ten Things You Didn’t Know About the Grad You Just Hired" (And will he or she be working for you a year from now?) (hat tip to David Maister for pointing to the article). Number 5....

Their bosses aren't their mentors.

Read both articles, you'll be glad you did.

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