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  • Linda R. Taliaferro

3 Qualities to Look for in a Mentor

Something that comes up a lot in my work and in conversations with followers on social media is the question of how to choose a mentor. Most people agree that having a mentor is a really powerful career tool, but there's a lot of doubt about what that actually looks like. 

In my experience, these three things are some of the most important qualities you should be seeking out.  


You know when you're on a project and you can tell the person you're working with is totally checked out? That's a lousy feeling, especially if the project is important to you. If you get a mentor who isn’t invested in you, it feels just like that, only worse. I see this sometimes in corporate mentorship programs; the mentor is signed up to help grow talent, but they don't personally care about you or your growth. The best mentors truly, actually care about your growth and your development. Would you go to a dentist who didn't actually care about your teeth? No, of course not. So don't settle for a mentor who only sees you as a box to check. 


If your mentor has decades of experience, a wealth of troubleshooting tips, and great interpersonal skills that have helped them rise to the top, but they can't talk about it, what you've got is an unhelpful mentor. It doesn't matter if they're experienced or wise, they have to be open and vulnerable enough to share that wisdom! Mentorship is about teaching and supporting growth, and if your mentor isn't comfortable parting with those nuggets of wisdom, then all you have is a coffee buddy. 


Growth can be uncomfortable, but that discomfort is necessary. A mentor who can give you constructive feedback, even if you're not ready to hear it, is so valuable. It's a gift to receive that kind of wisdom from someone with the experience to back their suggestions up, and you should look for a mentor who isn't afraid to call you out. Now, I'm not saying your mentor should be insulting or belittling you. Mentorship is about growth. But growth requires facing your mistakes, and having a mentor who will help you be accountable to your goals and your growth is incredible. Do they make you stretch? Do they get you out of your comfort zone? 

If you already have a mentor in your life but it’s not working well for you, ask yourself: 

  • Do they care about me and my growth? Are they interested in my well-being?

  • Are they sharing their experiences and their struggles to help me understand my own? 

  • Are they able to challenge me in a constructive and helpful way? Are they helping me expand my horizons?

If not, it might be time to look for a new mentor who can carry you forward. Of course, there are a ton of other qualities to look for in a mentor, but those are some of the most important ones. If you're vetting a mentor, make sure they meet these three categories, and if they don't, you can be confident that person isn't your mentor.

If you’re ready to make big moves in your career (and if you’re reading this, I can tell you’re a go-getter), let’s talk! Set up a free consultation appointment phone call, and we can work on a customized plan to help you take the next step and reach your long-term goals.

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