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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.

More by this author

Sarah White

Freelance Writer, Editor, Professional Crafter

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How to Fight Information Overload

How to Fight Information Overload

Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

What you need to do is focus on these 4 steps:

  1. Set your goals.
  2. Decide whether you really need the information.
  3. Consume only the minimal effective dose.
  4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming too much information.

But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

The Nature of the Problem

The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem. This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

When we see some half-baked blog post we don’t even consider reading it, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it. We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

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No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on. The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control. Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it. But first…

Why information overload is bad

It stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here. When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work, or enjoy your passion.

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So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with your goals.

1. Set your goals

If you don’t have your goals put in place you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

2. What to do when facing new information

Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans then skip it. You don’t need it.

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If it does then it’s time for another question. Will you be able to put this information into action immediately? Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks? Or is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away? If the information is not actionable in a day or two (!) then skip it. (You’ll forget about it anyway.)

And that’s basically it. Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant. Self-control comes handy too … it’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future then SKIP IT.

3. Minimal Effective Dose

There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour Body,Tim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs. Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life. Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming more information

Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

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Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

In Closing

As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance. I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over. I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

Feel free to shoot me a comment below and share your own story of fighting information overload. What are you doing to keep it from sabotaging your life?

(Photo credit: Businessman with a Lot of Discarded Paper via Shutterstock)

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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