A mentor in the corporate world is a trusted individual who helps another by offering advice and helping them navigate the corporate pathway. They are generally experts with extensive knowledge, considerable experience and a strong passion to share the same. Mentors often share characteristics with coaches with the exception of not being paid for their service.
They are often sought after for various reasons, some of these include:
- Mentors enable opportunities for career development
- Mentors help build strong and personal connections
- Give reliable and honest feedback and help identify areas of improvement
- Exceptional source for a letter of recommendation
- Provide an opportunity to learn new skills and develop strengths
But finding a mentor can be a challenge; Olivet Nazarene University surveyed 3000 people and found that nearly half of the respondents have never had a mentor and those that did build their mentorships organically from existing relationships.
Places To Find A Mentor
Workplaces often have programs to help employees match with a trusted mentor. As per Terri Scandura, Dean of the University of Miami’s graduate school, 71% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs. This statistic truly highlights the importance of having a mentor and how valued the relationship is. The Founder and CEO of Microsoft, Bill Gates also had a mentor, renowned Investor Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway who have now been good friends for more than 30 years.
Reaching out in the workplace and simply asking if such a program exists can go a long way. For example, Scandura noted that employees with mentors generally make more money and gain promotions faster as well. Moreover, corporates help find mentors since mentees often have higher productivity and are more loyal.
If a company does not have a program in place, employees can receive guidance from accredited external organizations and professional clubs as well.
Despite finding a mentor, mentees often struggle to identify and commit to a reliable mentor and benefit from their guidance. Mentees commonly commit to a mentor that passes on their toxic qualities as well. To avoid this, it is vital to keep an eye out for the following qualities, which are often found in accomplished mentors.
Qualities Of An Ideal Mentor
- Successful And Experienced
These two qualities are very often found together but it’s important to make sure that they are present in a mentor. A mentor must have more experience than an employee and a proven track-record of success. The mentor is usually very influential and should ideally be someone an employee looks up to and aspires to be.
For example, Steve Jobs was an astounding mentor to Mark Zuckerberg. He guided Mark throughout Facebook’s launch and shared timeless entrepreneurship tips. In 2011, upon Steve’s death, Mark Zuckerberg posted “Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you.”
2. Eagerness To Help Someone Succeed
Mentors need to be actively interested in learning about their mentees and must be willing to listen to them as well. Not just physical presence, mentors should be prompting for clarity or further information as well. Without undivided attention and focus, the interaction and relationship would just be a tragic case of wastage of time if even one of the parties involved refuses to listen to each other.
Maya Angelou was a mentor to Oprah and supported her through the most important years. Oprah, with great fondness, said, “ ‘She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. Mentors are important, and I don’t think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship.”
3. Curiosity And Empathy
An essential quality that all mentors should have is the curiosity to know what their mentee is doing, and asking questions to guide them along the right path. Empathy is another important trait as it is essential to listen to the mentee and find out their point of view and then draft a plan to help them succeed. Having all the answers to their problems is pointless if mentors do not possess the ability to relate to their mentees.
Branson once said, “If you ask any successful business person, they will always have had a great mentor at some point along the road.” Branson went to Laker during his struggles to get Virgin Atlantic up and running. He said, “It’s always good to have a helping hand at the start. I wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker.”
4. Provide Honest Feedback
A good mentor should know how to effectively communicate and provide feedback. This feedback allows improvement and an ability to grow. Mentors should also recommend short-term and long-term objectives to further help a mentee grow and learn. Effective feedback enables success as mentees can understand their mistakes and solutions to them.
Michelle Robinson (now known as Michelle Obama) was appointed as Barack Obama’s mentor in his law firm. She consistently provided him with honest feedback to help him overcome all his challenges. Barack credits Michelle for all of his achievements till today.
Conclusively, as important as it is to find a mentor, it is even more important to find one that shares the same values and ethics. In the words of famous politician John C. Crosby, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”