The best mentors will push you to dig deep when faced with uncertainty.

May 13, 2015

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: Why is it important to have a mentor? is written by Sarah Watson, chief strategy officer of BBH N.Y.

There comes a time when the biggest threat to our professional development becomes ourselves. Humans are creatures of habit so it’s only natural for us to focus a majority of our time on behaviors that are often reinforced by day-to-day pressures. But this discourages adaptation and innovation. A mentor, however, has the power to help break this cycle. They can take the career conversation beyond the realm of best-practices for professional development and into a conversation about our unique potential as an individual.

I believe the foundation of a mentor-mentee relationship is a deep personal connection. Throughout my life I’ve had two mentors that I’ve turned to during the most crucial moments of my career. They helped me dig deep in order to successfully overcome my make or break moments. Looking back now, I recognize a few common attributes that only a mentor could provide:

Determination
Many of us have a sense of the value we provide in an organization, but it takes an outsider to put this into a broader perspective. We need someone who can see beyond the obvious and push us towards our true potential. Mentors see the potential in us that we don’t fully understand.

Expertise
It isn’t enough that a mentor sees our potential, they also need to have experience in similar situations. Their knowledge is the reassurance we need to take a leap of faith when necessary.

Vision
We can all visualize our careers trajectories in a certain way, but a mentor has the ability to change the way we view our long-term career goals. They show us why its important to pursue certain opportunities—even if they are out of our comfort zone—and how they will benefit our future.

Persistence
It’s one thing to start off on an ambitious journey, but it’s quite another to continue on through thick and thin. A mentor reminds us that a true test of our character is how we respond during times of uncertainty. They help hold us to a higher standard.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: Why is it important to have a mentor?

Is mentoring necessary for career advancement? by Teresa Briggs, vice chairman and west region managing partner at Deloitte.

Do all employees benefit from having a mentor? by Dawn Zier, president and CEO of Nutrisystem.

4 things your boss won’t tell you (but a mentor will) by Penny Herscher CEO of FirstRain.

What qualities make a good (and bad) mentor? by Karen Tegan Padir, president of application development at Progress Software.

Why mentoring is unlike any other professional relationship by Jenni Luke, CEO of Step Up.

Why you don’t need a mentor to be successful by Beth Brooke-Marciniak, Global Vice Chair of Public Policy at Ernst & Young.

What qualities should you look for in a mentor? by Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3.

4 things to consider before choosing a mentor by Camille Preston, founder of AIM Leadership.

The most important quality a mentor should have by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.

Why women are more likely to be mentors by Alyse Nelson, CEO and co-founder of Vital Voices Global Partnership.

3 reasons every employee needs a mentor by Sally Blount, Dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Why this AOL executive chooses her mentors — wisely by Allie Kline, CMO of AOL, Inc.

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