The Importance of a Mentor (And How to Find Your Own)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A mentor is someone who counsels, guides and enhances the knowledge and experience of another person. Mentorship can be helpful for both mentors and mentees because it can allow them to develop their skills, enhance their professional network and learn more about themselves. If you're interested in becoming or finding a mentor, learning more about what they are and why they're important can be beneficial. In this article, we explain the importance of a mentor, detail the seven benefits of mentorship, describe the characteristics of excellent mentors and explore how to become one.

What is the importance of a mentor?

Learning about the importance of a mentor can help you better understand how you can use them in your professional and personal development. A mentor is a person who provides guidance, direction and advice to someone else. They're important because they can help you develop a career plan or improve your personal life. Mentors exist without defined mentorship as teachers, parents and other leaders for developing people but defined mentorship can provide more structure and meaning to the relationship between two people.

7 benefits of mentorship

Mentorship can look different depending on the mentors, mentees and the field they operate in. Though mentorship can vary, there are some common benefits they share. These are some benefits of being a mentor in a mentoring relationship:

1. Improved goal setting for entry-level professionals

A great mentor can help their mentee set goals based on what the career path usually looks like. When a new professional sets goals without the guidance of a mentor, they may set goals that are unattainable or are not challenging themselves enough with their professional goals. Mentors can help review a mentee's plans and provide feedback about the quality of their plans. A mentor can also provide information about the process of goal setting and how mentees can improve that skill.

Related: Career Goals: How to Set, Examples and Tips for Achieving

2. Growth in the industry by advising new additions

A mentor in their field can improve their field or industry by advising new additions to the discipline. If each new professional receives guidance from mentors, they can learn about the mistakes they can avoid and how to best progress. In research fields, this may mean continuing research where the mentor leaves it, rather than beginning again. When mentors help mentees, it can improve productivity and efficiency.

3. Accountability for both mentor and mentee

Accountability is when people feel more motivated to do something because someone else is there. In mentorship, accountability occurs when the mentor and mentee hold each other to their intentions. Mentorship can provide accountability for the mentee by providing them with someone to help them set goals and monitor their progress towards them. The mentor can experience accountability by meeting regularly with the mentee and learning more about the aspects of the field they don't understand so they can better guide their mentee.

4. Better professional networking for the mentee

Mentorship can help the mentee meet new professionals because they develop a strong relationship with their mentor, who is likely to have years of experience. A mentor may also invite the mentee to professional events where they can make industry connections and grow their professional network. This can help build confidence and high self-esteem for the mentee.

Related: Why is Networking Important and How to Start Networking

5. Mentorship is a free resource for both

Unlike other methods for improving your professional life, mentorship is a free resource. Mentors can find mentees by leading groups, teaching or training new team members. Mentees can seek out mentors by emailing professionals and learning more about the leaders in their industry. Mentorship often includes weekly or monthly meetings during which the mentor and mentee can discuss their goals and share advice.

6. Enhanced interpersonal skills for mentees

By meeting with a mentor regularly, the mentee can improve their professional interpersonal skills. Regular discussion about topics in the industry may also help the mentee develop their vocabulary and knowledge in their discipline. The mentor can also help the mentee improve their communication, listening and collaboration skills by providing them with projects and inviting them to professional networking events.

7. Additional credentials for the mentor's resume

As a mentor, you can add your experience mentoring others to your application materials. Mentorship experience can be useful for positions where you guide others, like teaching and coaching. Many employers likely value the leadership mentoring offers you, so mentorship can be valuable for many other positions and roles, especially those of leadership or management.

Related: How to Create a List of Accomplishments for Your Resume (With Tips)

Characteristics of excellent mentors

Depending on the field, the mentor may need unique characteristics to offer effective mentorship. For instance, the mentorship between a new salesperson and an experienced one may be different from the mentorship between a writer and their professor. Though mentorship can vary, excellent mentors can share many of the same characteristics. These are some characteristics of effective mentors:

  • Constructive feedback: It can be difficult to offer constructive feedback that a mentee can understand and use to progress their career but that's what mentors do to help their mentees improve. It's important that the mentor delivers constructive feedback in a way the listener can positively receive and take adequate action.

  • Genuine interest: Genuine interest is when the mentor truly cares about their mentee and wants to help them improve in their life. This is important because when a mentor isn't genuinely interested in their mentee, their guidance and direction may not be as effective as possible.

  • Enthusiasm: Enthusiasm is important for the mentor because it allows them to motivate and encourage their mentee by showing them how to enjoy their work and advancement. Mentors can show enthusiasm with positive body language, engaged conversations and effort outside of regular mentorship meetings.

  • Respect: When a mentor respects their mentee, it means they understand the mentee may have different opinions from them and they're okay with that. Respect allows the mentor to invest in the mentee's success, regardless of personal differences.

  • Adaptability: Many industries and fields evolve rapidly, and the best mentors understand this and adapt to new changes and innovations. This is important because it helps the mentor avoid ineffective ideas and practices.

  • Knowledge: It is important for mentors to have sufficient experience in the field or industry before they can help guide others. Having substantial knowledge and personal experience allows the mentor to provide information and examples of what not to do for the mentee's development.

  • Active listening: Active listening is the ability to ensure the speaker understands they are listening to the other person and understanding what they say. It includes positive body language, active feedback and taking notes. This helps the mentor develop a healthy professional relationship with their mentee.

Related: What is Active Listening? With Tips for Improvement

How to find an effective mentor

The path you take to find an effective mentor can vary depending on your personal needs and mentorship interests. These are some steps to find an effective mentor for professional development:

1. Determine if mentorship is right for you

The first step to creating a mentorship is determining if it's best for you. Consider what you want to gain from your mentorship and reflect on what you've gained from mentorship in the past. Speak with friends who sought mentorship to learn more about the process and if they enjoy it.

2. Write down your mentorship preferences

Before you seek a mentor, it's important to understand what you want from a mentor. You may include considerations like level of experience, personality, availability, proximity and relevance to your own work. If you're a university student, you may limit mentors to professionals within your department or major.

3. Identify people you can contact for mentorship

After writing down your mentorship preferences, you can begin identifying people who fit that description. Consider those who are easily available to you and have a personality for a mentorship you can enjoy. With video calling, you can have a mentorship with someone who is geographically far from you, so consider contacting non-local professionals.

4. Prepare your detailed mentorship pitch

Before contacting your potential mentors, develop a concise statement explaining your mentorship idea. You can include what you want to gain from the mentorship and what they may earn from it as well. Consider including a tentative schedule or mentioning how you want to structure your meetings with them.

Related: How to Give an Elevator Pitch (With Examples)

5. Create a schedule for meeting and expectations

A good mentorship includes structure and guidance for meetings. Consider creating a schedule for meetings with your mentor that includes weekly or monthly conversations. You may also determine your expectations for each meeting and what you want to accomplish at each stage of the mentorship.

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