We’ve all heard the term ‘mentor’ but we need to acknowledge the importance of mentoring for professional development.
Mentoring has been around for a long time, specifically in academic environments where teaching is a part of the business model.
So what is a mentor?
According to dictionary.com a mentor is “
A mentor is someone who understands the work environment and offers advice to employees coming up the ladder.
They offer guidance and words of wisdom on career advancement but have no reporting relationship.
They understand the organization and serve as a guide to younger or less experienced employees and help them to advance in their careers within the organization or industry.
Depending on the industry, mentors are internal to the organization.
In the case of an entrepreneur, a mentor may be someone within the same industry who takes a younger professional under their wings and shows them the ropes.
Within an organization, a mentor helps a mentee develop and advance their career.
This is often done by teaching what I call the “unwritten rules” of an organization. Every organization and industry has these.
They are those tacit knowledge facts about an organization or industry that those who have been around for a while just know.
Much of it is based on the history and the evolution of things in the environment.
8 Traits To Look For In A Mentor
1. Knows the Organization
A mentor is someone who has been around for a while and understands the organization inside and out.
They understand the weaknesses as well as the strengths of the organizational structure and the process to develop.
They know the pitfalls and how to avoid them.
2. Knows the Industry
Whether a mentor is within an organization or an outside mentor, they know and understand the industry they are in.
They understand the history, how things got to be the way they are, and where the industry is going.
They like to predict where they see things going in the next few years and have opinions on their likes and dislikes of the way things are.
They have an unquenchable desire to keep on top of their industry.
3. Has No Ulterior Motives
A good mentor takes pleasure in developing others. They are not threatened by the mentee’s potential.
They are not looking for anything in return other than the pride that comes with watching someone develop and grow professionally.
A good mentor is honest about the potential of development and advancement. They see things the way they are and are realistic.
They are comfortable sharing what they think is working as well as opportunities for change.
They see it as their responsibility to be honest – even when it may not be pleasant or easy.
5. Politically Savvy
Let’s face it; there are politics in every environment and at every level.
Good mentors are politically savvy and are aware of political “landmines” and how to avoid them.
They teach others how to maneuver successfully within the political environment.
Young professionals who don’t understand this can hit a political landmine and have it affect their career opportunities for sometimes years.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of politics – in any environment.
6. Have Time
A good mentor has time to spend mentoring. They are available for questions and can help their mentee over the hump in difficult situations.
They enjoy spending time and just conversing over developmental topics.
7. Are Patient
Mentors are patient by nature. They have been around a while, are well oiled and seasoned, and know how to respond with patience and grace.
8. Desire to Give Back
Most good mentors had a positive mentoring experience and have a desire to give back to someone else.
They understand the advantages of being mentored and want to share that experience with others.
Some organizations have structured mentoring programs.
This can be a very positive way to develop professionals as long as the mentors have the desire to mentor and exhibit the above traits.
I believe we all have the responsibility to give back to others what we have learned along the way.
This is how knowledge is transferred and those behind us get developed.
I still remember my mentor. Her name is Antoinette Brooke.
She helped me climb the ladder out of the support realm into a leadership position. For that, I am forever grateful!
Do you want to share a story about the person who mentored you?