Mentorship: Why You Need a Mentor to Reach Your Full Potential
You may think you can set out on your own in your career or with a new business. You are smart, a good people-person, and you learn quickly. While these are all great attributes to have, remember you start out at the bottom. Even if you go to college, this doesn’t teach you everything you need to know to make it in your chosen field. A mentor can help you to come into your own in this situation. Let’s talk more about mentorship to reach your full potential…
I did not live the mentored life until I left my job as a classroom teacher and also gave away my best clients in my real estate business. Mentorship was not something on my radar or anything talked about by the people I was spending the most time with in those days. If this describes you right now, my advice is to immediately expand your circle of influence to include more people who understand the value of mentorship to reach your full potential.
Looking back, I now realize that I did have people mentoring me over the years, albeit in an informal way. They were typically older and much wiser, and generous with their time and knowledge. One person was a professor at the university where I received my teaching credential during the mid 1980s. He offered to help me get my footing and I took him up on that offer.
Dr. Landon would visit once a month and spend a couple of morning hours in my classroom. I’d make lunch for us – his favorite was peanut butter and grape jam on whole wheat bread – and we would stay in my classroom to discuss things. This time was extremely helpful to me. He would share stories of working in Malaysia as a teacher for two years, and also told me about opportunities beyond the classroom. At that time, I simply did not understand or appreciate what his friendship meant to my career as a classroom teacher.
If you already have someone working with you in this way, start by assuming your mentor is a good one. There is plenty of great information available on how to find good mentors. Once that is out of the way, your mentor will know your field quite well. He/she will be someone who gets things done.
Your mentor is someone who’s already made many mistakes in their career. They can help you avoid many of those mistakes. Their experience means you won’t have to go through the same pain they did, both emotionally and monetarily. That alone should be worth having a mentor.
They already know how to find out the information you need to succeed. If he doesn’t know that information first-hand, he knows where to look for it. He will have access to databases or associations that can benefit you. He may even show you the proper way to search the information to find it faster.
Your mentor will have mentored others to success. While you can find good mentors that have yet to do this, why take the chance? Find someone who has experience at mentoring others and is quite successful at doing it.
They are also going to have a large network of contacts and keeps this network active and looks to build relationships. They do all of this because he knows people appreciate these relationships. You want to be a part of this network, and there is no better way to get on it by having this person be your mentor. If this is the only attribute the mentor is good for, this can be enough for you to work with him. Networking is going to be your greatest tool in your career.
Most mentors offer encouragement to the people they mentor. You’ll need this throughout your career. It’s easy to get discouraged and caught up in the negativity of office politics, etc. Your mentor can help you talk it through and offer suggestions on how to handle those situations. Be careful not to let him fight your battles for you, however. That will never make you look good and can burn you when your mentor is no longer with the organization.
Why Not Try Community Mentoring?
If you have some spare time and want to help in a community, give mentoring a try. You can help kids in the community or older adults who are struggling for one reason or another. Community mentoring is a great way to reach out, and it can have long-lasting benefits.
It may seem like volunteering, and there are some aspects of mentoring that are similar. However, with community mentoring, you have a personal connection directly with one or more people. This arrangement is not something that you do once or twice and then move on. You are looking to impact the lives of a few people positively.
People get into situations for any number of reasons. Sometimes, all that is needed is a listening ear. That can be just as much a mentoring activity as others. If someone knows you are available to listen, this can go a long way in helping them get through their adverse situations.
Some mentoring arrangements will go further than just listening, although that is always a useful attribute to have. You may find you can offer guidance to people. You do have to take care when doing this and you should only advise on things you know. You don’t want to give the wrong advice. If you don’t think you’re knowledgeable enough to help, you can offer to find out more and get back to them.
Wherever you decide to reach out, talk to the community centers that are in the area. These centers often have skilled personnel who can help you with the details of the program. If a community center is not available, speak with people in the municipality or local government office. They may have programs you can sign up for or can point you to people who do.
Sometimes, kids in a community are afraid to speak to their parents and teachers. If you become a mentor, you may be able to connect to these kids and help them confide in you. Unless you are a trained counselor, you don’t want to offer too much advice. However, you don’t need to be a counselor to listen. Kids often need someone they can talk to when they feel they can’t reach out to their parents or teachers.
A community mentor can make all the difference in helping people through their dark times. You will feel satisfaction in knowing that you helped these people and they may be able to get a new start from the arrangement.
How to Choose a Mentor
You may have heard that working with a mentor can accelerate your growth in your business, personal life, or career. A mentor can streamline your learning process and help you stand clear of the pitfalls that most people without a mentor go through. However, trying to find the right mentor can be a challenge. Use these tips to help you in selecting one.
It seems obvious that a good mentor should have integrity. However, some people look good on the surface, and deep down they won’t take the relationship seriously, or worse, will throw you under the bus.
Knowing whether a person has integrity is going to take some detective work. You may want to ask questions of others who know the potential mentor. If something is not right with the person, others will clue you in on their experiences. Try to find out some information online about the person. Use search engines, ask questions in forums, ask questions on social networks. Your research might take a little while, but it will be time well spent.
Mentors should also have a good knowledge base. You don’t want to find a mentor who has never experienced what you are trying to learn. Some people are good at pretending. However, when you come across situations that require certain expertise, these people will fall short. To know whether a potential has the necessary knowledge base, try to get references. Again, online information may uncover the truth about your potential candidates.
At first, you may believe you should choose someone who is like you. However, sometimes the best mentors are those who are different from you. They offer a diversity that you would not get from someone similar. You will gain a perspective of someone different than you.
Try to find a mentor who is well connected. It’s great if a mentor is knowledgeable about your field. However, if they have a good network, this will advance you quicker than someone who does not network well. Your potential mentor can hook you up with the right people at the start rather than getting you into situations that won’t work for you.
You can choose whether to find a mentor to pay or someone willing to help you for free. Both situations have advantages. Whether you find a free mentor or one you will pay, make sure you spell out the agreement ahead of time. Ask what they expect of you and mutually determine who is responsible for what. A good mentoring arrangement measures the success or failure. Otherwise, you have no way to know if it is working out.
The Right Mentorship to Reach Your Full Potential
First you need to realize not just anyone will do. Sure, there are lots of people further along on their life journey than you, but not all of them make for good mentors. What you want is someone who has these particular qualities I’m sharing with you here. And by the way, these are ones that I strive to improve every day and am proud to possess. My own mentor helped me to come up for the right words to describe what I embody as a mentor…
They Have a Sincere Desire to Share Their Knowledge
The best mentors are committed to giving back to the world. They’re not mentoring because they’re fulfilling some kind of obligation or because they think they ‘should’ be there. They’re interested in mentoring because they want to.
They Walk the Walk
Before you even consider someone for a mentor, you need to take a look at who they are as a person. Do they follow their own advice? Are they genuine in who they are or are they merely playing some kind of role just to get ahead? Never settle for insincere!
They’re Ready to Teach
Even if someone is further along than you are on their journey, you need to remember they might still be striving to get ahead in some way in their own lives. If your prospective mentor is too caught up in taking care of their goals, they’re never going to have time for helping you out. This can be solved with an open and honest conversation about how much time you’re looking for from your mentor and asking outright if they have the ability right now to make this sort of commitment without overextending themselves.
They Have the Right Attitude
What is the general feeling you get from your prospective mentor? Do they have a tendency to see the glass as half empty or half full? You might not think a positive attitude is overly important so long as you can check off all the other boxes, but when faced with challenges you want someone who can help you to see the possibilities without focusing on the disaster.
They’re Excited about Mentoring
If your possible mentor isn’t thrilled to be helping others, you’re going to be fighting for their attention and seeing them less and less over time. You need a mentor who thinks what you’re doing is awesome and seems pumped up at the idea of working with you.
They’re Open to Learning
Mentors aren’t going to know everything. Sometimes they’re going to be learning things from you. As a classroom teacher, I openly admitted to not knowing everything. I always added that my goal and intention was to learn from my students as well. This was an excellent arrangement throughout my twenty years of teaching.
With this in mind, the last thing you need is a know-it-all who’s going to insist they’re always right, even when they’re clearly not. You’re better with someone who is willing to admit they don’t have all the answers and are interested in learning what they don’t know. How to tell if your mentor is a lifelong learner? Check out what they’re learning right now. The right kinds of people are always bettering themselves, taking classes, reading books, and otherwise trying to gain new knowledge.
They Know the Difference Between Feedback and Criticism
It’s absolutely crucial your mentor knows how to communicate well. If they’re going to jump on your flaws and make a point to hound you about everything you’re doing wrong, they’re not teaching, nor are they being helpful. The right candidate knows how to be constructive in their criticism, as well as how to deliver bad news in a way which doesn’t humiliate or demean their student.
They Reach Their Own Goals
How can you expect someone to help you to reach your goals when they never reach goals of their own? Do your research when checking out any prospective mentor and look at their accomplishments. What have they done in their lives? What successes have they had?
Other People See Them as Experts
Anyone can be a self-proclaimed expert at anything. The question is whether or not the rest of the world sees your possible mentor as an expert. How are they regarded by their peers? Are they talked about in positive ways? Are there articles about them or mentions on social media? How does the world see them?
They Have Awesome Listening Skills
Mentors need to be excellent listeners as this is where they’re going to get all the information they need to be supportive of you. Here’s where a conversation with any person you’re thinking about as a mentor is absolutely crucial. Do they dominate the conversation? Do they ask questions and wait for the answers, or do they tell you the answers themselves? Do they want to lecture or guide? Do they listen to what you have to say or are they ignoring what you have to say?
They Withhold Judgement
There’s going to come a time when you and your mentor might not agree. Or where you’re going to do something which might lead to a mistake which could have been avoided if you’d only talked to them first. Is your mentor the sort of person who’s going to call you twelve kinds of idiot or make harsh judgments about your decisions? Or are they the sort of person who’ll be compassionate, even when you’re trying their patience? If you’re not sure of the answer to this, look at how they talk about other people. Are they malicious in their gossip or put people down? Or do they practice empathy?
They Have Time for You
Some people keep a pretty busy schedule, which is understandable. But are you going to be able to reach your mentor when you need them? If you have to go through a secretary, have only one way to reach them, or have to wait on them to talk to them, then you’re likely not going to be a good fit. A good mentor doesn’t have to clear the decks for you at every opportunity, but they certainly will give you options on how to reach them and will get back to you in a timely manner if they’re busy when you call.
They Know People
How big is your potential mentor on networking? Hopefully, they’re going to recommend some people who you might benefit from knowing. This isn’t going to happen if they don’t have a decent network of their own to draw from. This doesn’t mean your mentor needs to know every person who’s anybody. What you want is quality of contact over quantity. It’s better to have a solid introduction to the person you need right now over a nebulous connection to a dozen people who might get you to the same place.
They Know When to Set Brakes on Things
There’s nothing like the sight of an impending disaster to show what a person’s made of. A great mentor will warn you when you’re going wrong, even if it means disappointing you. A bad mentor will avoid the confrontation, making it more like you’ll crash and burn. Look for someone who’s not afraid to tell it like it is for this trait.
They’re Honest About Who They Are
Speaking of honesty, there’s nothing worse than a mentor who’s playing a role. Take for example the guy who will brag about being an expert, only to be proven as a fraud later on. This can be disaster when it comes to mentoring. You need to trust your mentor to know what they’re doing and to not steer you wrong. Role-players aren’t going to be any help to you here.
They’re Easy to Talk To
Is your potential mentor intimidating? If you’re too much in awe of them, or they seem too unapproachable, you’ll never benefit from the interaction the way you would someone you’re comfortable talking to.
They Know How to Adapt
Not every approach is going to work when you face a problem. The good mentor knows when to abandon ship and take a new direction, even if it means going against what they might have tried previously. Being flexible enough to know when to try something else is crucial to mentoring.
They Expect to Learn from You
A good mentor will expect to learn new things. A great one will expect to learn from you. When you find a potential mentor who’s stuck in the mindset where they think they can only teach you, they’re already closed-minded. But a wise mentor recognizes they’ll be gaining something out of mentoring you.
They’ll Treat Others with Respect
How does your mentor treat those around them? If they talk behind people’s backs, criticize, or make cruel, racist, or otherwise unpleasant remarks, don’t expect them to treat you with any respect. This is a red flag which can’t be ignored. Don’t give someone like this the time of day.
They Believe in You
Finally, the only mentor worth your time is one who sincerely believes in you and what you’re wanting to do. If they’re not all in, on your side, they’ll never fight for you or go the extra mile to make sure you succeed.
Of course, not every mentor is going to have every one of these qualities. What you’re going to want to do is to go through this list and make note of those traits you absolutely cannot live without. Those are the ones you’ll be focusing on most as you seek out your mentor.
The Power of Reaching Your Full Potential Through Mentorship
Think back to a time when someone inspired you. Perhaps they spoke at an event you attended. You may remember a college professor who you loved. Whatever your memory, you probably thought of that person as a mentor.
What was it about that person that made you feel inspired? Was it the way they spoke or was it the message they presented? Mentors have a way of giving us the needed push to accomplish what we thought was impossible.
You don’t need a face-to-face relationship for someone to be considered a mentor. In fact, you could read about someone in history or read a biography on the person. Sometimes, you may find a TED Talk that moves you. Then, you reach out to that person and let them know how it moved you. Correspondence can develop where you bounce ideas to this person.
Mentorships help people by giving them the push they need to get to a higher level. Sometimes, you simply don’t know what to do next. A mentor will show you some possibilities. While they shouldn’t decide for you, they can give you some much-needed guidance.
You never want to blame a mentor for anything related to your life or career. If you follow the advice of a mentor and it doesn’t work out, you either didn’t follow all the steps, or it simply may not be the right path for you. The responsibility rests with you. I had a situation like this when I first started my online business. I came to the conclusion that this person did not work well with someone as new as I was at the time. This allowed me to take full responsibility, move on, and to not place blame on anyone.
While there are bad mentors, it is up to you to learn how to find the right ones. But, once you do, you will have guidance that can help you attain your goals. You must be willing to take the advice of your mentor. The actions required could take you outside of your comfort zone. Often, that is how you break through barriers that are holding you back. When that happens, you will see the value of a mentor that much more.
Some mentors may seem out of reach to you because of how much they cost. Some people are lucky to receive free mentoring. But, if you don’t have that luxury, keep in mind what you are getting out of the deal. If you advance in your career quicker than your colleagues because you paid for a decent mentor, can you put a price on that? You will more than cover the cost of both salary and relationships that you gain from the arrangement.
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I’m Connie Ragen Green, mentoring others and being mentored as well. Come along with me, if you will, for a journey without physical limitations or boundaries, and one in which I will help you to stretch beyond your comfort zone as you reach your full potential. I’m also a bestselling author of more than twenty books, including Living the Mentored Life.
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