A great mentor can change your career

Library | 8/29/2019
       
JENIFER WALDEN 
DIRECTOR OF TALENT MANAGEMENT AT VALLEY


Great Mentor
Success is not developed in a vacuum. Professional role models and mentors are an invaluable component of many successful individuals. When I first started my career, I asked a senior level manager to lunch and built a mentorship relationship that helped me grow into a senior level manager myself. In fact, we’re still in touch and I continue to seek his guidance even though we no longer work at the same organization. 

Finding the right mentor can help give you a truly impactful support system. Here are some important characteristics of great mentors that can help you through your career journey.
 

A great mentor… 

    

  • Acts as a role model — Good mentors will exhibit personal characteristics of integrity, trustworthiness, kindness, and leadership—all behaviors necessary to be successful in work and in life. A positive attitude is also a useful quality that can help you work through the challenges associated with change and growth.   
 
  • Is passionate about their field — A great mentor is enthusiastic about their work and is eager to discuss advances in their field. This enthusiasm can be encouraging early in your career. A mentor will motivate you to read the latest publications in the field, attend and participate in conferences, and take you on teaching engagements to pass on their growing knowledge to others. It goes without saying that an extraordinary mentor loves to learn and teach, inspiring others to do the same.  
 
  • Provides helpful insight — Feedback is necessary for improvement, but there is an art and a skill to delivering constructive recommendations. A good mentor can deliver insight without the negativity or discouragement. By pinpointing your strengths and opportunities for improvement, a mentor can guide you in ways that will make you successful in your work. This requires solid communication skills and awareness of any cultural or generational differences. 
 
  • Creates an environment of respect — Mutual respect between you and your mentor is key. Part of establishing a relationship is understanding the value of everyone’s time and effort. A mentor may not always view a meeting with a mentee as the most important thing on their day’s schedule. However, you may see this meeting as the most critical thing they have planned that month. A respectful mentor understands this dynamic and takes pride in fulfilling this valuable role.   
 
  • Walks the talk — A strong mentor also lives by the goals they establish or set with you. If a mentor says it’s a good idea to start your workday early, they should be the first one in the office. If a mentor places importance on leadership, they should be spearheading a project or two in their job. Generally, you can spot inconsistencies between what is said and what is done. 
 
  • Exudes emotional intelligence — Emotional intelligence is being able to monitor and differentiate other people’s feelings and emotions to guide your thinking and actions. An astute mentor understands your emotional temperament. They know which questions to ask and when to ask them. A mentor listens intently and takes a genuine interest in what you say. Mentors can express difficult emotions in a calming way and can control negative emotions. 
  

There is incredible value in having a strong mentor. See if your company has a formal mentorship program and, if it does, get involved to find a mentor that can help you with your professional growth. If you’re company doesn’t have a formal program, make a list of a few people in your organization you’d consider as an informal mentor. Ask for a meeting, or invite him or her to coffee, and ask them for advice related to your job or career aspirations. If someone doesn’t have time or isn’t interested, your list just got shorter.  

It’s important to recognize mentors will come in and out of our life, and you can’t expect everyone to take a hyper-focused interest in your career. It’s up to you to develop relationships and seeks guidance to maximize your potential.  

  
 

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