Sometimes when it comes to our careers, we don’t always know best. Despite our best efforts, we still sometimes feel lost, confused and alone when navigating our professional lives. What we lack in direction, we often make up in googling and asking friends. In situations like these we need more than a BuzzFeed article. We need to find a mentor to show us the ropes. But to find your real-life Mr. Miyagi, you need to be looking for the right qualities.
First, a mentor is someone you will likely be drawn to because they are a source of inspiration for you. It’s essential to think about what you like most about this individual, or what initially drew you to them. How do they lead and interact with others? How do they confront opportunities and difficult situations? These people are more than likely people of action and go-getters. They know how to lift up the people around them, instead of tear them down. Think about the qualities you admire in them, and make it a point to take note of these traits. Much of mentorship can simply be observed so try to watch and learn first.
Your ideal mentor will also be unselfishly invested in your future. The best mentors have time to dedicate to you and your career. They respond to emails, are open to grabbing coffee and cheerfully connect you to their helpful contacts. Make sure your mentor is actively engaged in your life, so they can properly guide you along the way.
While your mentor should be encouraging, they must have the ability to be honest with you. Be thankful for this quality, because means they care enough to make sure that you’re not making huge mistakes. If you can look past your emotions and take their feedback with an objective view, you may learn some valuable information to save you from having to learn the hard way.
Your mentor should also have high expectations for you. They won’t accept your procrastination and excuses. You should be be hearing things like, “Have you ever thought of applying for this?” or “I saw this posting and thought of you. You’d be perfect for it!” You should not be allowed to get complacent with your mentor, which will be a huge plus for you personally and professionally.
Once you’ve identified a great mentor, you must remember to be a good mentee. If you ask for an e-introduction, follow up promptly. If you want to grab coffee, be on time and come with questions. There’s nothing worse than asking for assistance then not using it when it’s given. Show your mentor you truly appreciate them and the time they dedicate to you.
And lest you think this is a situation only you will profit from, consider mentorship to be a mutually beneficial relationship. Our passion for our own career can reinvigorate our mentors, while their experiences educate us. It’s like old stories of signal fires in the mountains. The sight of one light means another is set ablaze, and the pattern is continued along the path. Once you’re on fire, you should help set the next one.