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Looking for a mentor? A 13 point checklist to help you choose the right one

/ Feb 06, 2013 6:53AM / Print / ()

Last week I wrote about being a successful mentor. But what if you are looking for a mentor – how do you choose the right one?

The first point is that this is not like a relationship or marriage where you need to be wonderfully compatible, or go for the long haul, long term.

It's a relationship that might be for a year, the duration of a project or perhaps even for a few years. The frequency may be a month apart or perhaps a catch up only two to four times a year. It may be only while you are doing a particular role. So there are going to be a number of variables that will impact your choice. Nonetheless there are some key factors you might want to consider on your checklist!

Choosing a mentor quick pick checklist

Some attributes can only be judged after the mentoring relationship starts – so maybe not committing to a full-blown intense schedule of meetings will be a good starting point – unless you already know some of these factors are a positive:

  1. Someone you admire and respect, who has a good track record and credibility – especially in the field of work you are in or planning to be in. This person has achievements that impress you.
  2. Someone who has a lot to offer you – and you can articulate what that is, and that person would agree or can tell you!
  3. A person who enjoys challenges and knows how to challenge you and help you focus your thinking.
  4. Never someone who is patronizing – unless you want to build skills for how to manage a patronizing person with a big ego! Maybe this will strengthen you for challenging stakeholders, but personally it would drive me crazy because a mentor should be someone with whom you enjoy meeting.
  5. Has the ability to relate to someone with less skills and experience.
  6. A person who makes commitments and follows through – e.g. a mentor who continuously cancels meetings might be a wrong choice. Find someone who can give you sufficient time – regularly or at least four times a year.
  7. Find a person with genuine interest in your career and advancement; someone who will be interested in you, not just big noting themselves.
  8. Someone with whom you can be yourself – not putting on a formal façade.
  9. A person who has a good network of influencers e.g. is able to pick up the phone and connect you with a possible learning opportunity, or will make connections for people you should meet, events to attend.
  10. Has a good understanding of your organisation, or at least your industry and your future potential.
  11. Probably not too much of a controller, certainly not making decisions for you, so avoid someone who continually offers their own solutions. They should ask useful and interesting questions and engage you in developing your own ideas.
  12. Has high standards and values – values mistakes for learning, has great interpersonal skills, good listener, open and honest and actually gives you feedback on your communication style. This person should value learning and can stretch higher achievers – and can help you experiment in a safe environment.
  13. Avoid someone you feel sexually attracted to!

I'd love to hear your experiences of good and bad mentoring and items to add to the checklist!

This story first appeared on SmartCompany

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