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A Good Mentor Is Hard to Find: What to Look for in a Mentor

A Good Mentor Is Hard to Find: What to Look for in a Mentor

Finding a mentor is a great way to give your career and your life a boost. The right mentor can help set you up for success by introducing you to people, suggesting next steps in terms of training or projects you should undertake, being encouraging and showing you that it's possible to get where you want to be.

But mentorship is a tricky situation because it's hard to find the right mentor. How do you find someone who's willing and able to help, with all the qualities you need?

But first, know what your goals are.

Before you go looking for a mentor, it's a good idea to have a firm understanding of what your goals are.

You need to know what you want out of the mentorship relationship as well as where you think you want your career to go in the future before you'll really know what qualities you need your mentor to have.

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For example if you want to go into management, you might want a mentor who has taken a similar track. A mentor needs to be someone who has the right experience and connections for you to learn from and benefit from in your own career.

While the business-related experience of a person you might want to be your mentor can vary, there are a lot of personal qualities that are universal in people who will be good at mentorship.

A good mentor should share your personal values.

For example, the best mentors are people with personal integrity and who share your values, both professionally and personally. You aren't going to do well with a hard-driving, lean-in mentor if you're a person who wants to put family first.

A good mentor is willing to teach and offer advice to others.

They might see themselves in you or wish to pay forward the help they got — or provide the help they didn't get — when they were starting out.

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A mentor needs to be approachable, willing to make time for you and to prepare for your time together. They need to be willing and able to spend time thinking about your situation and your needs, and to provide helpful advice, and hard truths when needed.

They need to balance willingness to share their talents and expertise with listening to you and being open to your needs and goals instead of just rehashing the old stories they tell everyone who asks for their advice.

The best mentor never stops learning.

One thing that's vital in a mentor that you might not think about is curiosity and a willingness to learn. You need a mentor who not only knows a lot about the business you're in and its history, but who also stays on top of trends and technology and can help you navigate what you need to focus on in your own career development.

They should have goals that they are pursuing and achieving in their field and they get bonus points for speaking at conferences, writing papers or otherwise being a thought leader in a field.

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They should be enthusiastic about their field and always interested in reading and learning more.

You can test this by asking about the blogs or books they've read recently and checking out those sources. If they don't have good answers, they might not be the best mentor for you.

The perfect mentor is a coach and a cheerleader.

The mentorship relationship can cover a lot of different characteristics, from giving advice to setting goals, tough love to making connections.

But the mentorship relationship largely boils down to finding someone who can be both a coach and a cheerleader.

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They need to be able to give you firm advice on what you need to do, to push you beyond your comfort zone, to encourage you to do things you might not yet feel ready to do and to cheer on your successes as if they were their own.

It's not an easy thing to be a good mentor or to find a good mentor, but starting the search with your needs and mentorship qualities in mind should make it a bit easier to know who isn't right for you.

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Sarah White

Freelance Writer, Editor, Professional Crafter

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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