You’re done with school and you’ve got a few fields that you’re interested to pursue further. So, what’s the next step?
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed about making those big decisions about your future, just remember that there’s probably no one that can go through life without a little help. After all, you may have heard that even some of the best business gurus and sports icons had mentors.
A good career mentor can not only point you in the right direction but can also help you cultivate your skillsets and tell you what you need to know about the paths that lie ahead.
Here are a few key things to look out for when choosing a career mentor.
“Jack of all trades, master of none.”
You’ve probably heard that before. This means that you should find someone with a little more focus on the aspects that you’re trying to develop. You might know that one person that easily trails off during a conversation or can’t stick to one topic at a time. These can also usually be the same people who have their hands in many cookie jars at the same time.
He or she may claim to be a financial investor, healthcare expert and advertising guru, all at once and, as impressive as this sounds, you might want to consider if the person truly is worth choosing as a mentor, particularly if you’re currently only interested in one career path.
Why is this important? Well, while this mentor may truly be an expert on many things, it may also mean that he or she doesn’t have the time to properly guide you.
Worst still, communication may be an issue if the focus isn’t really his/her strong point.
Try learning anything from a mentor that’s suffering from a lack of focus…
So, find someone who’s calm and calculated in the way they speak, as well as more honed in on the career path you’re interested in.
It can sometimes be pretty hard to tell how honest a person is when you first meet him/her. However, you should observe the level of honest advice that a potential mentor is willing to offer.
You could try asking specific questions to get a good feel for responses. These could even be questions you already know the answers to. If they let you in on the true standing of a certain sector or elaborate on the little details that you won’t be able to figure out yourself, you might have a keeper.
If, on the other hand, answers given are too straight-forward, uninspiring and lack substance, this may be a sign that the person is either not very interested in mentoring or that he/she is just not that honest.
Good career mentors should also know how to tell it to you straight (even if it kind of hurts) and, whether you’ve made a mistake or whether a decision you’re about to make is the wrong one, your mentor should guide you and warn you of any potential consequences.
Complete the other two aspects by including personality into the mix. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Would you prefer a mentor that’s outgoing so you can adopt those same outgoing qualities or would you rather find someone that’s on the same quiet wavelength as you so you can learn at your own pace while remaining comfortable throughout the process?
These are questions that you may have to ask yourself while gradually observing the personalities of your mentors to figure out how they behave/act/carry themselves. More importantly, you should identify your own personality and establish for yourself what it is that you’re looking for in a mentor.
Aside from this, consider finding a mentor who shares your core values, principles and ideologies. It can be easier to aspire to become like that person if you are both already similar in certain ways.
The ability to relate can be a powerful weapon for self-development.
Also, watch out for personality issues. Does your chosen mentor brag about his/her (sometimes questionable) multiple accomplishments? Are they not as mature as you expected or constantly brooding over negative things? You could say that practically every human being has some personality issues but you should be aware of them and make sure that they do not overwhelm your ability to get anything good out of the relationship.
Ultimately, mentors are only human so you can expect strengths and weaknesses to be revealed down the line. Career mentors don’t have to be a completely perfect match for your criteria. What you should do is look for basic qualities that can lead to an almost seamless mentorship experience.