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Camille Preston, founder of AIM Leadership Courtesy of Camille Preston
Commentary

4 things to consider before choosing a mentor

May 05, 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 Camille Preston, founder of AIM Leadership.

Mentoring is a two-way street. I actually do quite a bit of work in the mentoring field--I am a mentor, I have a mentor, and I help train people to be good mentors. Your career is part of your life, and great mentoring changes you deeply, not just the way you work. Here are four tips for mentors and mentees alike:

Look for clues of success
Successful people are successful for a reason. People who have achieved greatness in an area of their lives are typically using great strategies. And these people tend to make excellent mentors. So when looking for a mentor, look for the clues of success. Think about what is important to you and the things you want to achieve personally and professionally. Do you want to be a better businessperson, mother, leader, yogi, speaker, writer, etc.? Start to look for people around you who exemplify the skills you want to acquire.

Mentoring goes both ways
To be sustainable and healthy, mentoring must be a two-way street. Both parties need to give 110% to the relationship. This ensures that the mentor and mentee continually learn from each other. Give as much to your mentor (or mentee) as he or she gives to you. And if you are looking for a mentor, actively seek out ways to add value to their life as well. Understand what matters most to them and find ways to contribute.

There is no one-size-fits-all
No one can (or should) guide you in all facets of your life. I actively seek out different mentors in a variety of areas in my life such as fitness, finance, public speaking, etc. For example, I’m expecting a baby girl, so I reached out to mothers and daughters and asked them to share their wisdom with me. Identify growth opportunities in your life and think outside the box.

Change your definition
A mentor is someone whose life or work you value and admire, and whom you think might be a good guide. These days, a mentor can be any age, in any field, so stop thinking of a mentor in traditional terms. Too often we limit our mentors to those “above us.” Don’t let a persons age, title, or experience pigeonhole your thinking.

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

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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