On my last radio show with Sarah Zinc, we discussed the value of women finding a mentor. We uncovered that a mentor isn’t your cheerleader, nor someone that consoles you after a tough day at the office, rather a solid confidant that coaches you. It’s another woman who in your estimation has ‘made it to the top’, who’s opinion you trust and advice you intend to follow – no matter how hard it is to receive.

Here are five considerations in finding a good mentor

Where are you going?
It’s important to understand exactly the knowledge you want to gain in the relationship. Consider your strengths and weaknesses in order to identify who to work with. Are you looking for leadership advice or a strategy to build sales in your industry? Would you benefit best from a group where you could meet your mentor or one on one? Is this person an executive or a peer? Are you looking to partner with a fabulous C level leader and have them explain how they rose to the top? Being clear in what you need and where your limitations lie before choosing to work with someone. This is a road map to your success. Choosing someone that is faster, smarter, better than you in certain areas is worth consideration.

Who do you want in your corner? 
Who exactly in your life fits the bill in terms of a mentor? Mentors are found in the most surprising places. They could be a business partner, a vendor, your banker or lawyer, your past clients. The list is bigger than you think in terms of who could actually coach you to success. Decide if you would actually implement the feedback that they give you, or would it just be another lunch full of you complaining about office woes. A strong mentor can reach you deeply and have great impact. In your life you’ve probably had many mentors and didn’t even call them mentors, necessarily. These people could have been your teachers for lack of a better term. But you listened…and you grew.

Never Ask Them to Be Your Mentor
For whatever reason, when you ask someone to be your mentor, the conversation can quickly turn awkward. The reason is because being someone’s mentor is serious and a huge time constraint. Instead of being flattered, the person could see it as a time deficit on their already busy schedule. Personally, I would never ask someone outright to be my mentor. Instead I would look closely at who had impact on me and whom I admired. Mentor-ship can be as convenient as having lunch once a quarter or a weekly catch up call.

Beware Of Bossy or Controlling Mentors
This is where the relationship goes sideways. The purpose of the mentor/mentee relationship is to help someone reach a goal, not to recreate the mentor. Some mentors can get big heads while doling out advice, thinking they can do your life better. They can’t, nor are they invited to do that. Chemistry is important when finding a mentor, which is why I don’t suggest outright asking someone to be your mentor. It’s a recipe for egos in high swing. Suddenly, they are on the top rung and you are on the bottom. Instead of advice and encouragement, you walk away feeling judged. Choose your counsel wisely.

Follow Through and Implement
This is the most important step in the mentoring relationship. Whatever the mentor suggests, and you’ve verified it worked for them – TRY IT. There is no use gaining yet another opinion if you aren’t going to heed the advice. Growth comes from being uncomfortable, and it’s more than likely what your mentor suggests will be foreign to you. Instead of resistance, embrace the suggestion, but put it into action.

Then you have a great story to share with your mentor on your next lunch!

Would you like to hear more on this topic, from Elizabeth? Click here to hear her recent podcast with Sarah Zink!