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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 October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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