In my career, I’ve been both a mentor and a mentee. I know how important both sides of this relationship are, and what elements are necessary to be successful from both perspectives. Earlier in my career, I went through many mentors and felt that some were more beneficial to my growth than others. Below I have outlined five questions you should ask to ensure you begin a successful relationship with a mentor.
1. Do they have the necessary experience?
When selecting a mentor, the first thing to consider is; “Does this person have the experience necessary to teach and coach me as I progress through my career?” A mentorship should be a long-term relationship, founded on the basis of fostering your growth. Making sure that your partner has the skillset to assist you is an important first step. Additionally, most experienced veterans have been mentees before, and know the importance of having someone take them under their wing.
An experienced mentor is the one that will best prepare you for the constantly changing tides of your industry, and the sales world as a whole. It’s also an important rule of thumb to identify a mentor that will help you in the areas where you need the most improvement. For example, if you need help with presentation skills, identify a mentor that has confidence and experience with giving sales presentations.
2. Are they innovative?
You must identify if your prospective mentor has the creativity and ability to innovate before you enter a relationship with them. As you look for someone experienced, you may run into individuals who are stuck in their ways. While it’s important to find someone who has “been there, done that,” it’s also important to find someone who’s aware of the constantly changing state of the industry and how to best prepare you for it. Choosing a mentor with a willingness to get ahead of environmental shifts is very important as you strive to stay ahead of the competition in your industry.
3. Does your prospective mentor have ample time to devote to you?
Being a mentor can be rewarding, but it’s no easy task and can consume a lot of time for both parties involved. When selecting who you want to engage with, be sure that they can carve out enough time to be accessible when you need them. For example, some individuals look for a mentor to meet with once a month, while others may need more attention or less, depending on the opportunity for growth. Having a mentor that doesn’t share your enthusiasm for growth, or doesn’t have the availability to help you, doesn’t benefit either person.
4. Do you share common goals?
Speaking of a mutually beneficial relationship, try to find a mentor whose goals align with your own. This will strengthen every other aspect of your relationship. By sharing a common goal with your mentor, you can work towards shared success. Maybe you both have a goal to help your companies grow, you both strive for continued education, or you both want to own your companies one day. Whatever the common goal is, it’s important to be on the same page and path toward growth.
5. Will this individual hold you accountable?
A mentor is no good for you if they’re just going to be a friend. Mentorships are less effective if the mentee is continually let off the hook for failing to improve, or make strides in the right direction. Finding a mentor who will hold you accountable for your actions and help you understand the importance of growth and progress is key in developing proper habits and changing the necessary behaviors.
This can be a tough line to walk – you must find an individual who’s invested enough in your future to want to help you develop, but separated enough to not let you off the hook if you aren’t holding up your end of the bargain. How do you know whether or not your prospective mentor will be able to hold you accountable? Outline this ask at the beginning of your relationship, and have them provide you with examples where they’ve shown strong leadership. It’s also helpful for your mentor to understand what motivates you, because that will determine how they can help to hold you accountable.
Selecting a mentor is a challenging task and can be overwhelming at times, but if you ask the appropriate questions, the process can be successful. By ensuring that your choice has proper experience, is innovative, has sufficient time, shares goals and values with you, and is willing to hold you accountable, you can be sure that you two have a good chance for a successful partnership.