5 Qualities to look for in a mentor

At the CSM Masterclass, we talked about all things #Mentorship related. One of the questions asked was what do you look for as qualities in terms of a mentor?

It's a 3 minute read...ok fine I get it. The audio is coming. Up by end of day.

This is a great question and is a great place to start when considering who too look for as a mentor. Before going into the qualities of a mentor, I would like to preface this by saying that building a mentor-mentee relationship is a marathon not a sprint. This is NOT speed-dating, this is taking your time to get to know one another and be guided as you go through one or more career seasons/transitions.

So what should you be looking for?

1. A good listener

As much as much as you are looking for a mentor to offer you advice and guidance, they should be a good listener. You're not always seeking advice from your mentor. Sometimes you want to be heard, you want to share your fears, you want to talk out your ideas that are not yet fully formed. Your mentor should listen through the silences and the words that you speak so that they can then guide the mentee as needed.

2. Keeps confidentiality

Because you are going to be vulnerable with your mentor, it is important that they be someone who keeps confidentiality. When you share your dreams, plans and thoughts with your mentor, you should not then learn about them on the streets. With your permission they can share your CV or profile with someone else in the goal of supporting you. They shouldn't be gossiping about you to the next person particularly if they are from within your circle or network.

3. Not expect to be paid

One of the key differences between mentorship and coaching is that you don't pay your mentor and neither should your mentor expect payment from you. Mentorship is well understood to involve voluntary time either through a company or outside of work hours. Your mentor should not be expecting you to pay for their advice. Now should your mentor open up a business such as a consulting firm you may not have the same access that you used to have in the same way that if your friend who used to take pictures of you for free and then opens a photography business now charges for it (if you're still expecting your friend to take free pictures of you are you even a friend?).

4. Not expect favours from you

In the same way that your mentor should NOT be expecting payment, they should not be expecting favours. There is room for abuse in a mentoring relationship where a young professional is looking for guidance from often older friend/colleague, at no point should said older colleague expect any favours whatsoever. Be very wary if your mentor requests to meet in bars, pubs or at inappropriate hours. Be also very aware if the mentor begins to makes requests in exchange for their advice. Do not feel obliged AT ALL to maintain a mentor-mentee relationship where you are uncomfortable. End any mentor-mentee relationship before it degrades into an abusive one and report any abuse should it occur.

5. Availability

This one is relative because mentors by nature, are often busy. That being said, a mentor should be clear with you on how much time they are willing to give you whether it is an hour every month, half an hour biweekly or an occasional check-in every six months or so. A mentor who never has time for you can frustrate you particularly because you are likely going to do most of the chasing and trying to pin them down. If a mentor keeps cancelling on you, have an honest and respectful conversation so that they can let you know what time they are willing to commit as this will help you manage your expectations.

I hope you find this post useful. Are there any other qualities to consider?

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