The concept of a mentor might be unfamiliar to you. Take a moment to evaluate the different skills you possess. How did you learn those skills? The most common way people acquire skills is by being taught by someone who is more knowledgeable than them.
You learned how to write or to speak a certain language because someone taught you, probably in a classroom session. The teacher most probably followed a set curriculum that was put together by experts in that field, and that is tested and proven.
Had you decided to teach yourself, you would probably have found yourself lost in a jungle of information, with no idea where to begin or end.
Why Do We Need Mentors?
A mentor is someone who has walked the journey and knows the way. By having an experienced person hold your hand and show you the way, you avoid unnecessary mistakes and shorten your learning curve.
A mentor is a teacher, a guide and an adviser as you navigate your journey towards specific goals. They could be career, relationship, financial or some other goals.
What to Look for in a Mentor
1. A truth teller whether the truth is pleasant or not. You are traveling on a road you have not traveled before. A mentor alerts you about dangers and inconveniences ahead so that you can avoid them.
2. Ability to build rapport quickly and build relationships. A mentor is skilled in engaging people, asks the right questions at the right time and listens without judging.
A mentor is not like an unprofessional friend or family member, who judges you based on their own life experiences, opinions, and prejudices.
3. Is an expert in a particular field and possesses the skills necessary to pass on those skills to others.
4. Has a genuine concern for people and their situations and has a track record of developing people.
5. Has good networks and is able to liaise people with different professionals and services they need on their growth journey.
6. Is a good communicator. A mentor is a good listener; is attentive, empathizes with people’s situations, does not judge and has mastery of the right language to use in different situations.
7. Has the ability to win the trust of the mentee. This requires confidentiality, focus, encouragement, and empowerment.
8. Ability to inspire, motivate and hold the mentee accountable. Venting and complaining as a way of seeking sympathy rarely lead to any growth.
A mentor does not simply listen and feel sorry for the mentee but asks the mentee what he plans to do in order to get out of that situation, allowing space to reflect and grow.
9. Counseling skills. Mentoring has an aspect of counseling, enabling mentees to gain insight into their circumstances.
10. Commitment to continuous growth. New insights and ways of doing things are continuously being discovered.
A mentor is aware that knowledge is constantly changing and is committed to continuous learning.
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