“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone
who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living – if you do it well, I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” – Denzel Washington
Mentorships are priceless partnerships that have shaped many of today’s leaders. But when it comes to choosing a mentor, it pays to do your homework. Like any interpersonal relationship, some connections result in a better match than others. While opposites do sometimes attract, ideal pairings are much more likely when similar qualities and characteristics are combined. The dynamics of a mentoring partnership are no different. When it comes to choosing a mentor, finding the right fit can positively affect the outcome. If career advancement is your goal, consider these three factors when looking for the right mentor.
The mentor you choose should have already accomplished what you’re looking to achieve. More importantly, the mentor should already have been successful in coaching others to achieve that goal. You don’t want a mentor who has almost accomplished the goal that you want to reach. And you don’t want a mentor who has reached that goal themselves, but can’t seem to help others get there, too. You want to ensure that the mentor you choose has a good track record of leading others to the results that you want in your life.
The first step to finding the perfect mentor is to identify your own personality type. You must be aware of your own tendencies and preferences in order to isolate your future match. Start by making a list of your most prominent personality traits. If you find yourself struggling with this activity, there are countless personality tests and analysis available to help accurately describe your quirks. Once you’ve pinpointed the most important aspects that make you uniquely you, you’ll be able to use that same list of qualities to find your mentor.
Next, consider your daily habits:
- Are you an early riser or a night owl?
- Do you prefer all work and no play or do you need frequent breaks to help you focus?
- Do you hate talking on the phone? Would you rather rely on text or email?
- Do you focus on the big picture or thrive on details?
These personal elements shape your day and how you interact with others. Pairing with a mentor who behaves similarly will give you the advantage of working with someone who understands you, without issue. Instead of fighting what’s natural to you or wasting time trying to adapt to uncomfortable demands, you’ll be able to focus on what’s most important – the work.
Lastly, communication is key. The downfall of many relationships has been the inability to communicate effectively. Skip the trouble by ensuring your future mentor’s communication style matches yours. Think about how you prefer to be communicated with. What makes conversation easy and understandable? Are you:
- Long winded or brief?
- Direct or passive?
- Expressive or stoic?
- More verbally emotional or logical?
Take time to consider not only how you communicate, but how you like to receive direction and feedback. How do you prefer to be spoken to? Matching those elements will set a strong foundation for the success of your mentorship by minimizing the prevalence of miscommunication.
Don’t dismiss a mentor who doesn’t perfectly align with your personality or communication style. You don’t want them to be just like you, otherwise … you probably wouldn’t need a mentor, right? It’s fine to look for complimentary traits, but your mentor should also inspire you to make changes to your comfort zone. Becoming more comfortable with different things and stepping away from what you’re familiar with is a common first step to achieving more in life.
While it’s not possible to eliminate every difference, nor is that the goal, finding harmony in the cornerstones of your mentorship is indeed beneficial. Keep in mind, finding your match doesn’t mean finding your duplicate, it simply requires that you seek compatibility. Mentorships should be a place of growth, which sometimes demands differing perspectives and suggestions. However, the key should be a balance of foundational compatibility and perspective differences to create a healthy mentorship. While on the journey to advance your career, keep these three mentor matching criteria in mind.