How Do I Find A Good Mentor?
OCTOBER 7, 2022
What is a Mentor?
A mentor is someone who you believe can support you, guide you, and advise you in your life. You could have a mentor for a specific part of your life like your job, a hobby, your mental wellbeing, or you could have a mentor for your entire life, these people are often called life coaches.
This person can be someone that you formally hire to advise you, but a mentor is anyone that you look to for advice. You don’t have to have an agreement with a person to make them your mentor. Really the only requirement is that you consider them as your mentor.
The main person that has been my mentor in my life has been my father. Since I am very similar to my dad in many ways, and since he is very successful and happy, he was an obvious choice for me. I have never formally asked him to be my mentor, I have just always turned to him for advice.
Importance of a Mentor
There have been a number of studies that show the importance of having a mentor if you want to develop quicker, be more successful, and be more stable. In 2015 the Harvard Business Review published an article (https://hbr.org/2015/04/ceos-need-mentors-too) that identified that CEOs who participated in mentoring programs, developed quicker, made less mistakes, were better leaders, and their performance was higher. In looking at Fortune 500 companies they also find that 71% of these companies have some type of mentoring program. It seems that mentoring really helps people to not only perform at a higher level, minimize issues in their life, but also it helps them to be happier. In 2019 CNBC did a workplace survey and found that people who have a mentor are more likely to be happy with their job than those who do not.
Now, putting all the research and statistics to the side, I have always believed having a mentor is very important in someone’s life. The reason was due to logic. When I was young, I quickly realized that I didn’t know very much and this brought me to ask a few simple questions:
- Is it better to do things on your own, or have the advice of someone who knows a lot more and has lived much longer than you?
- Is it better to not know what is happening or is it better if someone tells you what will happen before you do anything?
- Do I want to have to spend time rediscovering what other people have learned, or do I want to take what others have already discovered and start from there?
Logically, having a mentor just made sense. The data and information that has been collected reinforced the importance of everyone being able to have a mentor.
Ask for Help
If you are trying to find a mentor, the first step in finding one, is to ask! You will never find someone to advise you if you don’t let people know you are looking for someone. You might know people already that would make a great mentor and you could start by asking them, but if you don’t know anyone, then you might want to start letting your friends and family know you are looking for someone. Usually someone knows someone that is willing and capable of advising you.
When I say you need to ask someone to be your mentor, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go and ask them, “Do you want to be my mentor?” Asking someone to be your mentor could be asking them for help in something, for example, if you want advice with what college to go to, you could simply ask someone to talk about colleges and what to look for.
People who find good mentors for themselves usually have had a lot of experience in asking other people around them for help. After all, the only reason you would be looking for a mentor is if you want help from someone else. To be honest it is a way of operation. There are many people who have mentors around them, but they don’t like to ask other people for help so they rarely utilize them.
Being Open to Learn
Now, once you are open to asking for help, the next step in finding a good mentor is to prepare your mind to be ready to learn. You can imagine this like different levels. The first level is asking for help, that is the easiest step. The next step becomes harder and that is not only allowing someone else to help you, but also learning from them. Most people who would make good mentors are okay helping you and even putting some effort into you, however, in the end they want to know that you are actually changing your ways and developing yourself so that eventually you can do things on your own. Good mentors don’t like it when they are just repeating themselves over and over. Thus, if you want a good mentor in your life, you need to actually listen to what they are saying, learn from what they say, and then change and develop yourself with that new knowledge.
It is important to remind yourself, the only reason you went to find a mentor is because they know things that you don’t. This means that what they tell you will not always agree with what you have in your mind, in fact, rarely will it match up with what you are thinking, because the mentor knows more than you. They see other options that you might not.
You might be thinking to yourself, this is obvious! Who would find a mentor and then not learn from them. You would think no one would do that! Unfortunately, I have seen that the majority of people do not learn from their mentors. Their mentors will advise them, direct them, help them to do something, and in the end the person will go the opposite way. I have seen it all too often.
You will also find that good mentors can identify if someone is open to their advice really quickly. The more you are prepared to learn will determine what type of mentors are willing to work with you.
Don’t be so Picky
The last, and toughest step in finding a good mentor is to just pick one. Finding a mentor is tough, because if you are looking for guidance you want to make sure you pick someone that can give you the best advice. Usually you are looking for what I call an expert. For example, if you want to be a professional athlete, maybe a quarterback, you don’t want someone you have never heard of mentoring you. You don’t want a mentor that has never played professional football orsat on the bench in college. You want someone like Tom Brady who is a 7-time Super Bowl winner and has played as a professional athlete for more than 20 years.
The issue is that more than likely Tom Brady will not be your mentor. In fact, the chance that you know, have a relationship with, or can even get a successful NFL quarterback to be your mentor is probably really low for most people. For many football players even finding someone that has even some type of knowledge of what it requires to be a professional athlete will be tough to find.
Many people find themselves in circumstances where they can’t find someone they feel is “good” enough to be their mentor. Thus, they continue to look for a mentor and usually they keep looking for a long time, until they either get tired of looking for one, or they decide that they don’t need one.
I have to let you know a secret, the best mentor will be someone you know or is known by your circle of friends and acquaintances, and is willing to mentor you. The reason for this is that the best mentor for you needs to be at your level. Let’s take the quarterback situation. If you are a quarterback and want to be mentored, but you just want to play for fun and do well while having other hobbies, and you get Tom Brady as your mentor, well, Tom Brady knows how to be a great quarterback, but his way of being a great quarterback is shaping your entire life around football. Practicing, studying, eating, and your entire life will have to revolve around football. You might not be ready for this or want this. A better mentor for you would be someone who had a great and fun career in high school, and then did something else when they went to college. The best mentor for you will be based on your level of understanding and capability. The tough part is realizing that you might not be as understanding and capable as you think. Now, don’t let this get you down, because even though the right mentor for you right now might not be Tom Brady, your mentor will always change as you learn and grow. Thus, when you look around and you only see your parents as mentors, that is fine! Use them as mentors and if you continually follow step 1 and 2 (Ask and Be Open to Learn), then you will naturally find more advanced mentors really soon.
5 Things to Look for in a Mentor
If you follow the three steps above (Ask, Be open to learn, Don’t be so picky) you will find a good mentor for yourself. But if you have options and you don’t know who to choose, then look for these five things to know which one is the best match:
- They can tell you about yourself without you sharing very much.
- They can tell you what will happen in the future, step by step, in a way you can understand.
- You feel comfortable following the advice this person gives you.
- They are someone you look up to and feel knows more than you.
- They smile.
Good luck in finding a mentor!
About the Author
Read more about Dr. Jacob’s latest book.
Dr. Jacob Kashiwagi is business management consultant and acting Chairman of the Board for Leadership Society of Arizona. Dr. Jacob has worked on 1,100+ industry projects valued at $3.6 billion with a 95% success rate. He has taught over 1,300 college students and 2,500 high school students.