Entrepreneurs

Council Post: 12 Critical Elements To Consider When Looking For A Mentor

For many young professionals who are still finding their footing in their industry and are unsure where their career is heading, mentorship is an absolute necessity. The right mentor can be an important part of a new entrepreneur’s professional and personal development, guiding them through difficult times and helping them find the right path. 

But how can you make sure to find a mentor who can actually help you achieve your goals? From their business background to their experience, availability and key personality traits, there are several qualities to look for in a mentor to ensure the right fit. Below, 12 contributors to Young Entrepreneur Council discuss some of the critical elements any young professional should take into consideration when looking for a mentor.

1. Experience

Experience is essential—specifically, experience in what you are trying to accomplish. Someone who has already walked the path you are looking to go down should know best what to do and, sometimes more importantly, what not to do. – Mark McKee, OnPay

2. Inquisitive Nature

I always look for mentors that are inquisitive. Most of the time, I don’t need to be told what to do in this or that situation. The mentors that were (and continue to be) pivotal in my life spend most of the time asking the right questions, which helps me crystalize my thinking and get to a decision. They’re “teaching me how to fish” instead of providing solutions. – Alex Furman, Invitae

3. Compatibility

I’ve gone through several business mentors, and I believe all of them had helpful skills. However, I quickly found that compatibility is key. For example, I had one mentor who was very sensitive, so I constantly worried about what I should say. Because we were incompatible, I didn’t get the help I needed. With the right mentor, I was able to excel and optimize his guidance. – Shu Saito, All Filters

4. A Similar Background

I think it can be powerful to find a mentor whose background mirrors your own. It could be in terms of your upbringing or the kind of business you’re running. Having this kind of shared experience makes it easier to communicate, and there’s real empathy involved. It’s a way for young professionals to see themselves as they could be in the future. – Blair Williams, MemberPress

5. Repeated Failure

Find a mentor who has failed—repeatedly. Someone who has withstood many battles and ultimately succeeded. Entrepreneurship is not supposed to be easy. A good mentor will guide your path forward with honesty, integrity and courage. Find a mentor who is also brutally honest with you. Telling someone the truth is never easy, but is always the right thing for them. Don’t choose the easy path or the easy person. – Terry Tateossian, Socialfix Media

6. Replicated Results

Many young people get carried away by charisma, pizzazz, intelligence and other unreplicable traits. They end up stuck with personality and value clashes. Young people should think about what they’re naturally inclined to do and focus on a mentor’s career results that not only align with them but are also replicable. – Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS

7. Active Learning

In my experience, a mentor is someone who is still actively learning. I think that there are some people out there who claim to be “pros” but who haven’t touched up on their skills in the better part of a decade. You should always seek out someone who is already wise but still actively staying in touch with new trends and practices in the community. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC

8. A Focus On You

Look for someone who focuses on you rather than themselves. Mentors often fall into the trap of using the activity to make themselves feel important. It’s kind of an ego boost to “be a mentor,” so it can be easy to say things that make themselves feel better. The best mentors are ones that put aside their ego and really listen, then give perspective that’s truly about the listener rather than the speaker. – Erik Severinghaus, Hyde Park Angels

9. Active Support

Look for a mentor who has the time and energy to dig in and be supportive. All too often, young professionals look for the mentor with the fanciest title. For example, if you’re looking for an entrepreneurial mentor, a busy CEO might not be a great fit, but his or her chief of staff might be able to provide a ton of insight. – Lisa Curtis, Kuli Kuli Foods

10. Caring Nature

Look for a mentor who cares about your success. You don’t want to have a mentor who is successful and only cares to talk about their personal success. Find one who sees your strengths and potential and wants to help lead you down the right path and connect you with those who can help along the way. – Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

11. Orientation Skills

Orientation skills are key. A mentor is a person who is and will always be willing to guide you toward a path or a decision. Therefore, when looking for a mentor it is important that it is someone with the ability to guide on different issues and who has the focus of maturity and responsibility necessary to contribute to making decisions for personal growth. – Kevin Leyes, Leyes Media & Team Leyes, by Leyes Enterprises

12. Honesty And Kindness

Honesty is an important quality in a mentor, but it must be tempered with kindness. A mentor should be able to give constructive criticism without being mean, otherwise it’s not useful. Always being positive is good, but mentees are looking for good advice too, which sometimes means delivering hard truths and things they don’t want to hear. Mentors are there to help you grow, so their honesty is critical. – Josh Kohlbach, Wholesale Suite

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