There are many different types of mentors people seek in their lives, but two of the most valuable are professional and personal mentors. The best advice I ever got in medical school was how to identify a potential mentor. This has helped me significantly in different stages of my life thus far. In medical school one of my professors continually emphasized the importance of paying attention to the people around me and focusing on their positive and negative qualities as these are equally important when it comes to identifying and then choosing a potential mentor.
Selecting a strong mentor involves a great deal of observation, and asking yourself the following questions is a good place to start when you’re deciding who could be a good mentor for you.
- What is it about this person I like?
- Is there anything about this person I don’t like?
- Do I aspire to be like this person in the future?
- Has this person accomplished what I wish to accomplish in my future?
- How does this individual interact with others?
- Is this person happy?
- Is this person interested in mentoring me?
- Is this person available to be my mentor?
- Will I be able to work well with this person?
- Do my goals and values match with theirs?
These questions are important to answer because you want your time (and theirs) to be spent wisely.
One of the great things about obtaining a mentor is that you have the ability to learn from other’s mistakes, and gain from their experiences. It is never too late to look for a mentor, because as your career and life changes your need for mentorship will change as well. Eg. Asking for a raise, changing career fields, applying for a new job, going for a promotion, going back to school, getting married, becoming a new parent, working while raising a family, managing finances to name a few.
Regardless of how successful you may be, having a mentor is helpful because there is always room for improvement. One of the most important attributes you want in a mentor is someone who inspires you. You want someone who believes in you, and encourages you to reach your potential. But you also want someone who will be honest with you, and provide a reality check when needed. Having someone who tells you how great you are all the time isn’t helpful. You want someone who will give you meaningful constructive criticism when it counts.
The bottom line is… the attributes you look for in a mentor, and the type of mentor you aspire to find will likely change over time. When looking for a mentor it is important to evaluate where you are in life now, where you would like to be in the future, then find someone that inspires you to do just that.