Thinking of becoming a mentor? Good for you! You should be proud that you’ve decided to take on this important role. Mentorship is one of the best ways of giving back. You’re not only supporting someone who is just starting out on the same path as you, you’re also honouring those who have helped you in your journey.
To help you prepare for this new responsibility, we’ve listed down the five most important qualities that describe a great mentor. See if you can relate:
5 qualities of a great mentor
Has relevant experience and knowledge
It’s logical that this is the first quality mentees would be looking for. The best match would be a practitioner in the same field, or someone who shares their interests but are ahead of them in terms of expertise, knowledge and skills. This is the common ground the mentor-mentee relationship will be built upon.
Ideally, the mentor should be no more than five to 10 years ahead so that they’d have enough experience but are not too removed from current trends. It’s important to be able to relate to the mentee’s experience and suggest solutions that are relevant to the times.
An active listener
The best mentors know that mentorship is not about them. This is why they provide their mentees time and space to verbalize their needs, ask questions, and share their opinions. Great mentors listen thoughtfully before replying and when they do, they don’t tout their achievements nor judge their mentees based on their personal experience (“In my day, I was able to graduate summa cum laude, become a CEO and slay dragons on the side despite taking care of five children. You should be able to do this too!”).
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk about your personal stories or experiences. You are a role model after all. Having relevant stories and being able to share lessons you’ve learned from them makes you a valuable mentor. It just means that you should be able to frame them in a way that will benefit the mentee. And you’ll know how to do this only if you listen actively.
Genuinely invested in the mentee’s success
A great mentor fully supports their mentee’s personal growth. They are enthusiastic about their mentee’s goals and often think of various strategies to push them to succeed. They also monitor progress and provide motivation at every stage. They are the first ones to notice improvement and celebrate successes.
The best mentors don’t regard their mentee as competition. They don’t resent the possibility that their mentee can achieve more than they have; in fact they encourage it. They consider it a badge of honour to have played a small part in their success.
They have a growth mindset
Having a growth mindset means believing that talents can be developed through hard work, goal-setting, and continuous learning. Mentors who think this way are more likely to encourage development because they understand that everyone is a work in progress – even themselves. They understand that we all make mistakes but we will eventually succeed as long as we don’t give up.
Able to give constructive criticism
Feedback is an essential part of the mentor-mentee relationship. Knowing how to provide it is an essential skill. A great mentor balances honesty with tact and kindness to help the mentee improve, not tear them down.
Building the relationship on trust makes this process easier. When the mentee knows that the criticism is well-intentioned, being direct and honest will not offend or discourage, but rather motivate and empower them.
Do you think you can meet all the traits in our list? It’s a tall order but as mentioned, everyone is a work in progress. Becoming an ideal mentor is something we become by working at it every day.
Need more push to decide if you can take on the responsibility? Take this short evaluation: Quiz: Are you ready to be a mentor? (Kelly Workforce Solutions).
Sources: 7 qualities that make a good mentor (and how to find someone who has them all), Alyse Kalish, The Muse; 8 qualities of a good mentor, Penny Loreto, the balance careers; How to be an amazing mentor in 10 ways, Martina Bretous, HubSpot; and What’s the purpose of mentoring? Matthew Reeves, Together. Accessed April 13, 2022.
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