When you’re looking for a workplace mentor, there are a few qualifications to look for. Obviously, you don’t want a jerk, nor do you want a doormat. You want a professional who you can look up to and learn from. Here are some important qualities to look for in a mentor to make sure you’re getting a good one.
Your mentor should have had an uphill rise to the top.
If your mentor got their gig through nepotism, for example, or by inheriting a big windfall and buying their way up, how can they really guide you through your field? You want someone who started at or near the bottom and worked their way up. And no, Drake, we’re not looking at you. You didn’t start at the bottom. You started on Degrassi.
Your mentor should be willing to give both positive and negative feedback.
If all your mentor does is blow sunshine up your butt, what good is she? Similarly, if all she does is drag you down, that’s no better. You want a mentor who’s honest and can provide both encouragement and constructive criticism as needed.
Your mentor shouldn’t hover over you, but she should be able to work alongside you as needed.
If someone is breathing down your neck, even if she means well, you’re not going to be that successful: you’ll either be too nervous to perform to your best ability, or you may coast along on your mentor’s work. There needs to be a balance of watchful and hands on interaction. You need to be on your own to actually learn to do your job independently, but your mentor should be able to help out when you need an extra set of hands, an extra set of eyes or just a “Yeah, that’s an awesome approach” acknowledgement.
Your mentor needs to be able to explain your job to you in simple terms.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by your responsibilities, duties, to-do list or even just the minutiae of one particular task. Your mentor should be able to break everything down for you when you can’t break it down for yourself. Her perspective should simplify your life a bit and refresh your outlook, not stress you out.