Six Practices of a Great Mentor

Mentorship is valuable in virtually all careers however, I believe it is especially important for those in a profession. 

In the United States we have five clear professions: 

  1. Military 

  2. Theologians

  3. Medical Field

  4. Law Enforcement (including police, attorneys, judges, etc.)

  5. Educators

Why are they called professions? What constitutes a profession?

Professions and professionals are in charge of an abstract body of knowledge that the society finds critical to the overall continued success of the society moving into the future. 

Professions receive a certain amount of empowerment from society in order to decide what it takes to become a member of the profession and outline the requirements, values, and norms. 

Should a professional not meet the requirements or break the values and norms held by the profession it is the profession that can revoke that persons license or ability to continue their career within that profession. 

Those in professions largely do it for the intrinsic rewards they receive and the positive contribution they are making to their community rather than any extrinsic rewards.  

Mentoring is critical in a profession as you try to develop people across their career. It can help up and coming professionals ownership of the profession while continuing to improve it into the future. 

What exactly is mentoring?

Mentoring is a dynamic, reciprocal, personal relationship in which normally a more experienced person (a mentor) acts as a guide, role model, teacher, or sponsor to a less experienced, newer person (a mentee). 

How do you find a mentor? What should you look for in a mentor?

There are several practices you should look for in a mentor: 

  1. Ensure that the mentor is interested and invested in you and your development.

  2. The mentor should be knowledgeable and competent. They must understand what it takes to be successful in the profession.

  3. They should be sharing and giving, particularly of their time. They’re willing to spend time with that you and supporting you along the way.

  4. A mentor must be ethical, decent, fair, honest, and truthful. Immediately end any mentoring relationship where a mentor is dishonest, sinister, or unethical.  

  5. The mentor must be involved in the profession and understand all aspects of it. 

  6. The mentor must exude a positive attitude. 

A mentor who follows these six practices will provide you with guidance and a relationships that will grow and flourish throughout your career. Over time a mentoring relationship can evolve into a more collegial relationship as the you continue to grow and develop in the profession. 

Strong mentoring relationships do not end! At this stage in my own career I still reach out to my mentors when I’m facing a challenge or need guidance on a difficult problem. They continue to be valuable relationships that I work very hard at maintaining.

When I think of great mentors and the importance of mentorship this quote by Robert Louis Stevenson comes to mind.

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much;

who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;

who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;

who has left the world better than he found it;

who has looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;

whose life was an inspiration;

whose memory a benediction.

-Robert Louis Stevenson

Stevenson’s words help remind me how I can be a valuable mentor AND how to help others find the perfect mentor that will help guide them in their profession and career.