How To Choose a Really Good Mentor
MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you find a mentor? is written by Jeanette Calandra, market managing partner for PwC San Jose.
Ten years ago I made one of the hardest decisions of my life, to leave a job I loved, a community of co-workers and friends I cared about, and a city that is among the most stimulating places to work in the world. We were moving across the country for an opportunity my husband and I both felt he could not pass up, but also knew the risk it presented to my own career. I would be able to stay with my company, but the change might delay my chances for advancement.
I wasn’t sure it was the best choice. And I wasn’t the only one. Some of my mentors, in fact, urged me not to go. Rejecting their advice wasn’t easy. I had always chosen mentors who were known and respected for their knowledge and skills, who consistently demonstrated confidence in me and championed my success, and who had invested a lot in building and sustaining the mentoring relationship. Above all, they had always challenged me, provided incisive feedback even when it was hard to hear, and encouraged me to take risks. In essence, they had prepared me to do exactly was I was doing: make tough decisions and know when to trust my gut.
The decision to move from New York to California turned out to be the right one. The adjustment was difficult at first, but rather than slowing me down, the risks I took paid off, new opportunities presented themselves, and I was ready for them. It can be hard to go your own way, but it’s important to remember that your mentors are there to guide you, not make the decisions for you. Balance is difficult on many levels: weighing professional choices against personal ones; considering the risks versus the potential benefits of chasing a new opportunity; or deciding when to listen to trusted mentors and when to make a choice they may not support.
However, as your career evolves, so will your relationships with the people who can help you be your best self and achieve your goals. The mentor who helped you launch your career may not be best suited to guide you as you take on increased responsibilities and challenges. The advisor who connected you to professional networks in your current role may not be as effective in your new one. So, how do you choose your mentors over the course of your career? Continue to:
Look for passion
Enthusiasm is contagious. The best mentors are passionate about what they do and believe their work is meaningful. They want to share that excitement with you.
Seek a champion
You will benefit most from relationships with mentors who are proud of your accomplishments and believe in your potential to bring value to your organization. At every stage of your career, your mentors should have confidence in you.
Ask for the tough stuff
You want a mentor who will provide incisive feedback, even when it’s hard to hear. That’s how you’ll grow in your current role and develop as a leader.
Invest in the relationship
You get out of it what you put into it. Give it your all. Be prepared. Do your research. Ask good questions. Follow-up. It’s a two-way street.
Engage with inspiring leaders
Find mentors with a proven track record in your firm. Leaders who are respected for their skills and abilities, and who have themselves been inspired by others.