Once you’ve realized that securing a mentor is a professional development strategy that would benefit you, it’s sometimes awkward to go about identifying what you’re looking for in a mentor and how to approach the best person for you. But like everything else, a plan will help you along.

  • Look for a good fit. Consider your strengths and weaknesses and define how a mentor might guide you. Be honest about your personality type and communication styles. Look to people you admire for not only what they’ve done, but how they did it. Look for a mentor whom you can learn from, not someone whom you feel comfortable with because they’re just like you. A mentoring relationship is about growth and change, not validation that you’re doing everything right.
  • Focus your criteria. Define exactly what are you looking for in a mentor, and have a clear understanding of what you want to realize from the relationship. Are you looking for someone experienced in starting a business or a particular type of business? Someone with experience in a certain field or profession, or in dealing with certain types of situations like office politics, raising money for a nonprofit, or sitting on a community board? Or are you looking for technical expertise like writing, sales skills, or construction design? If you lack experience in something or need guidance in how to improve, look for someone who has demonstrated excellence in that area.
  • Foster strong communications. In essence, mentors are master teachers and as such have strong communications skills. They actually enjoy teaching and are very good at developing relationships. They know how to build rapport with people, and one important part of that is listening. Successful mentors know how to get below the surface of what you’re saying and help you concentrate on what you mean. At the same time, they are able to share their views, ideas, and critiques with you constructively, positively, and with integrity.

Source: Adapted from Your First Year in Real Estate by Dirk Zeller (Prima Lifestyles, 2001)

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