The best mentoring relationships evolve from a natural affinity between two individuals. It can begin informally, generally after working together, or you can be proactive and seek out someone you admire or can learn from. Talent often draws the mentor to the protégé, and often accomplishment and power draw the protégé to the mentor.
Make sure your mentor is a good 'match'. You don't want someone, for example, who will only shower you in praise or bury you in criticism. You need someone who will prop you up with honest feedback and frank advice. You'll also need different mentoring as you advance your career.
Before approaching possible mentors, decide what you need. Ask yourself these types of questions:
Once you're clear about what you need in a mentor, assess who would be a good match. Consider not only their position and ability, but also how well you will get on with them.
- Do I need advice on how to move to the next level?
- Do I need help to manage staff?
- Do I need to develop my technical skills, such as how to write a report, press release or presentation?
- Do I need the scoop on inside politics?
- Do I need help interpreting hidden agendas at meetings?
The ideal mentor may be someone who:
- is astute enough to observe others' reactions to you and forthcoming enough to offer honest tips about your style
- can assess your performance
- is in the loop and who can alert you office politics and priorities
- will support you and promote you to others
- has the experience you're seeking or the skills you want to acquire
- is well networked in your organisation and/or industry.
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Depending on your needs you may need more than one mentor. There's no harm in seeking the support of several talented people.
Friends are not good mentors. They can support on many levels, but are not in the best position to provide objective, frank feedback on where you need to improve.