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How to Choose the Right Mentor for Your Life

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

What if you could have a guide on what to do next in your career? A free resource to help you when you are stuck or in a tight spot. You might be wondering how to interpret changes at your company. Perhaps you've watched your company's leadership team turnover more times than you flip a pancake, and you aren't sure what it means for your career or your next promotion. Or you could struggle to clarify what you bring to the table before negotiating your next opportunity.

Having a mentor is a competitive advantage at every stage of your career. Building relationships can make it easier to succeed in work or life. Knowing how to choose the right mentor can save you time and ensure you are asking the right person your critical questions. In my career, I've shifted industries from finance to food to manufacturing to technology; at each juncture, my mentors helped me learn the unwritten rules and avoid the common pitfalls to success. My mentor, Don Thompson, founder and CEO of Cleveland Avenue, even wrote the foreword for my book, Getting Unstuck: A Guide to Moving Your Career Forward, to demonstrate his commitment and the importance of mentorship.

Here are some essential qualities to look for in a mentor and a step-by-step guide to finding the right one for you.

The A, B, C, D, Qualities to Look for in a Mentor:

1. Aligned Values. Look for someone you consider to be a good role model. Do your research and take the time to understand how they make decisions. Do you agree with their choices, and will you respect their advice? They don't have to be the CEO or rich and famous. Mentors can help in any area, including family issues or investment guidance. Consider fellow alums, members of your sorority, or professional organizations who you may already know, respect, and admire.

2. Business Relevant. What do you want to do next? We all dread the question about where you see yourself in five years, but your mentor should expect your journey to be related to their field of expertise. Review your performance and talk to your manager about where you need to focus your attention to make an impact on your professional reputation. Advancing your career may be the first thing that comes to mind, but mentors can help you develop your confidence in performing well in your current role by sharing their experience. Look for someone with the appropriate background, expertise, and contacts to advise you.

3. Complementary Experience. Have you received feedback about your opportunities for growth or areas of improvement? A mentor can help you stretch yourself and find assignments that will allow you to demonstrate your growth. For example, if you're concerned about your finance skills, you may want to investigate people with roles that include profit and loss responsibilities in your industry. When you are considering the impact of parental leave, taking a leap into entrepreneurship, or writing a book, find a mentor who's been there, done that.

4. Development Focused. A mentor is a facilitator and a sounding board. Ideally, they'll help you develop your own wisdom and create your own solutions. Making sure that the person guiding you understands their role in teaching you what you need to learn is critical to having a successful mentoring relationship. In Getting Unstuck: A Guide to Moving Your Career Forward, Don Thompson underlines his commitment to helping me navigate at McDonald's Corporation in the foreword.

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