Home > Advice, Career, People, Thoughts > How To Choose A Good Mentor

How To Choose A Good Mentor

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Can I share how beyond grateful I am for the mentors in my life? As I take inventory on those whom I can call on as a ‘mentor,’ I am humbled that they even want to be a part of my life! Now, also allow me to share this – in order for it to even have gotten to the point of it being a mentor/mentee relationship, I literally had to put myself out there,* and it is scary! At least it was at first. Now I just have fun with it!

(Note: “putting yourself out there” means within reason, and is not to be taken out of context. Always keep God, your morals, values, and integrity to the highest regard. We are not in the business of selling our souls in order to land a ‘dream job.’) 

With so many outlets, you have to be mindful of how you reach out to your potential mentor. I’ve absolutely utilized the phone, old-fashioned snail mail, email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and SnapChat DM’s (with the utmost professionalism, of course). And now you play the waiting game, and this is something that I’ve struggled with – being patient. There is absolutely no telling whether or not this person will respond, let alone see your message. The worst thing that can happen is no response at all, or a flat out “no.” And I’ve totally had people not respond even after having seen the message (the read receipt will get you every time). You get over it.

However, I have been very fortunate that most of the people I have reached out to over the years have welcomed me with open arms, replied back with their personal contact info., connected me with their personal friends, colleagues, and other individuals that they feel may be helpful to me, and all in all, have been extremely resourceful. I have had friendships turn into apprenticeships and mentorships, and vice versa.

So, this message is for the person who may feel shy, timid, too afraid to ask for something or put themselves out there “like that”…  CLOSED MOUTHS DO NOT GET FED! You have to put yourself out there, especially in a time where the entire world is at your fingertips. If you’re not putting yourself out there, know that the next person is. We all have the ability to get in contact with literally, any & everybody we want. NO ONE is off limits! How amazing is that?! The internet has been a game-changer in countless ways. Just a little over a decade ago, all we had to rely on was email. Then, along came Facebook where people can now put a name with a face. Why wouldn’t you take that to your advantage?

Even though I was raised to never ask for help, I have learned along the way that pride and ego will keep you from succeeding. Please do not be afraid to a) pray big prayers – remember, no one is off limits and you don’t know how God can connect you, b) pray about your specific situation, and then c) execute; ask the right person for guidance or direction, which are essential tools to make it in life.

We all need help! Just make sure you give back a double-portion to those who will one day reach out to you because you are now where they want to be. Listed below are ten of my own personal tips on finding a good mentor.

 

HOW TO CHOOSE A GOOD MENTOR:

1) What is a mentor?  To me, a mentor is someone whose life and work I value, admire, and am inspired by. Someone who is willing to make a long-term commitment to my career, and someone who wears many hats: coach, adviser, critic, instructor, etc.

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2) Why do you want a mentor?  Are you looking for guidance? Direction? Someone to offer specific advice? Someone to be a sound board to bounce ideas off of? Or just because it sounds cool that you “have a mentor?” Make sure you’re being real with yourself and check your motives. If you are seeking a mentor for superficial reasons, just know that they can see right through you, and you don’t want to burn any bridges before you even start crossing them. Also, think about what type of mentor best compliments you. We usually have a tendency to gravitate towards those with whom we have a lot in common, but when you’re seeking out a mentor, seek out people who have strengths that you lack. An extrovert to your introvert, or vice versa.

3) Qualities of a good mentor.  In my experience, a good mentor is someone who is knowledgeable, open-minded, encouraging, supportive, a good listener, and a good communicator. Additionally, I feel they should be someone who is well-known and well-respected in your specific field of work.

4) Look for clues of success.  Successful people are successful people for a reason. They found a formula, stuck to it, and reaped the fruits of their labor. Ask yourself what it is you want to achieve both, personally and professionally and look for people around you who exemplify the very skills you want to acquire.

5) Who to consider.  Think outside the box. Go beyond former bosses, coaches, professors, etc. It’s beneficial to think more along the lines of elderly family members, relatives, community and/or spiritual leaders, etc. I literally sat down with a pen & pad and broke down my entire network. It is true what they say – “your network determines your net worth.” Start breaking it down.

6) Why them?  Be prepared for your potential mentor to ask you, “Why me? Why would you like for me to be your mentor?” and have a damn good response ready! If you’ve done your homework, this should be a breeze. For me, I like to remind them who they are, how far they’ve come, some of their work and/or accomplishments that has inspired me, and if they currently have my dream job, I make sure to let them know that, too.*

(*Note: this last part is key! If they are intimidated by the fact that you may one day replace them, there’s a possibility the information they share with you might only be enough for you to get by. This is a red flag and you need to continue on with your search. However, if they are humbled that you would even consider their role a “dream job” and see that you’re willing to do what it takes to get there, and in turn, they’re willing to help you however they can to get to their current role because they realize that they, too, will move onward & upward into bigger roles, then clearly, you’ve found a match! Use your gift of discernment wisely.)

7) Do your homework.  Let’s be real. You more than likely aren’t going to know whether or not a potential mentor has your desired traits until you start working together, which is why it’s so crucial that you do your homework before approaching someone to take on this important task. Time is money and neither of you have time to waste.

8) Mentoring is a two-way street.  In your mentor/mentee relationship, you both should be able to learn from one another. Offer help. Don’t feel that you have nothing to offer because this person is “accomplished.” Add value to their life. Give them a reason to want to help you. Successful relationships happen when a mentor and mentee are the right match.

9) Popping the big question.  Asking someone you look up to, admire, or even consider a hero, to be your mentor can be pretty intimidating. This is the part where there’s that awkward moment of silence and my stomach will usually hit my back, but I take a deep break and go for it. “Would you be willing to be my mentor?”  Or if it’s in written form, I’ll probably delete that line about 30 times only to come back to the original, “Would you consider being my mentor?” I’ve been nervous every single time I had to ask, but I sucked it up and went for it, and here’s what I found. Most people who have achieved a place of accomplishment in their life are willing to share their wisdom, knowledge, and experience with others. In asking someone to be your mentor, you are offering them high praise. In the event they say no, do not be offended. It could very well be they are busy people and genuinely do not have the time to take on such a role. Thank them for the consideration and ask for a referral.

10) Communication is key.  Major key! How often should you reach out to your mentor? This is subjective. For me, I have more than one mentor, and all of our relationships are different and we are all on different schedules. Depending on the person, I’m checking in with them once a month, bi-weekly, or weekly. I also always ask if there’s anything that they’re working on that I can shadow. I’ve even asked if I can be brought on to do an apprenticeship (a fancier word for an adult internship).

Final thoughts.  Always be teachable and moldable. Apprenticeships are a great way to show you are willing to learn and be taught. Be open to constructive criticism. Communication is key. Be transparent – they are there to help you, not judge you. Never ever go into the relationship asking for anything. Always offer! As much as you may think it is about the value your mentor adds to your life, it’s really about the value you bring to them first. Then only can they reciprocate and add the value back into your life. Be prepared to invest in yourself. It shows that you’re serious. And last but not least, you are totally allowed to have more than one mentor. By no means is it a numbers game though. Quality > Quantity

A personal story.  I had been going back & forth in my mind for months about whether or not I should reach out to this woman who has my dream job, and is one of the best in the business. We already know the stereotypes about women helping women. I’m all about empowering other women and those are the type of women I typically attract to me. I figured I had nothing to lose and basically, slid into her Instagram DM’s one day. She responded back with her email, and before I knew it, we were about 50 emails deep into our thread. This led to our initial ‘consultation’ (which, by the way, she invoiced me for and I gladly paid). During my first face-to-face interaction with one of my now-mentors, she asked me, “What is your dream job?” and with zero hesitation, I responded, “Yours!” to which of course, she laughed. I followed that up with letting her know that any “dream job” I’ve had to date, I’ve gotten. Anything I’ve really wanted to do, I’ve done. It’s a mindset. From winning city championships to running at State Finals in high school, to attending Michigan State University, hell… to graduating, to being an On-Air Personality at the radio station while in college, to interning at BET Networks, to now living in Los Angeles, CA after living in 5 other major cities – anything I have set my mind to, I have accomplished, and it would only be a matter of time before I landed her role. And once I landed that role, I would then have a new “dream job.” Her response, “I like you! If I didn’t think you had it, I wouldn’t even have set up this consultation. We can definitely do great things together.” Not only is she my mentor, but is also my media coach.

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Categories: Advice, Career, People, Thoughts
  1. Dana Dane
    06/21/2016 at 3:29 pm

    Love this post! Mentors are so important! This came right on time as I’m currently looking for a mentor 😘

    Like

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