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Horner's Corner: One Size Does Not Fit All: Choosing the Right Mentor

One Size Does Not Fit All: Choosing the Right Mentor

Have you been told that to be successful in your profession you need a mentor?  And did you think voila! this is the magic answer to my success!  Someone to lead the way, light my path, answer all my questions, tell me what to do in tough situations and ensure I never fail!!  A genius with all the answers!!!  I hope not…otherwise, you’ve certainly been incredibly disappointed.

But then wait…  What should a mentor do? 

A mentor’s role in your career truly depends on the role you need them to play.  No mentor will have all the best advice or perfect answers, but they will have experience to pull from that can help you along the way.  A personal Sherpa as you ascend upwards in your career, a mentor can offer guidance, give suggestions, provide personal stories, help you to come to a decision, listen to your frustrations and work with you to develop solutions.  What’s important to remember, for both parties in the relationship, is that it is not the mentor’s role to make decisions for the mentee. 

Okay great…  How do I choose a mentor?

Before you approach a potential mentor, formalize the answers to the items below.  This can help you with your selection process and the clarity of your request in approaching your potential mentor.

  • What goal(s) am I working to achieve?
  • What do I consider success?
  • What knowledge or expertise am I looking for?
  • Will this person have the time and the desire to invest in me?
  • Will this person challenge me?

Of course, there are more questions and data points you could consider however the five above will provide a strong framework for what you want to gain from having a mentor.  This will also help you formulate your “ask”.  Be respectful in your approach to your potential mentor, let them know what time investment you need.  Think about how to best present your objectives and the role you want them to play.  Most importantly, be open to their feedback, suggestions and constructive criticism.

Piece of cake…  Why do these section headers rhyme?

Just keeping with the theme here at Horner’s Corner!  If you have questions about how to best approach selecting a mentor, I’d love to help! 

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