The word mentor has its roots in Greek mythology, where it was the name of the adviser of the young Telemachus in Homer's Odyssey. Since the mid-18th century, it has been used to describe an experienced and trusted adviser.
If you want to advance your career, try a new venture, or be more successful, a mentor gives you a huge advantage. Most of us want to be better at what we do, and a mentor--someone you admire in whose footsteps you want to follow--can provide you with guidance you won't find anywhere else.
Even the best-known leaders--the people we read about all the time--had mentors:
Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs.
Larry Page had Michael Bloomberg.
Marc Benioff had Larry Ellison.
Warren Buffett had Benjamin Graham.
These successful people were too smart to try to become successful on their own--they had mentors to help them.
Here are the seven qualities your mentor must have:
1. A mentor must have experience and a proven record. A mentor can give you the benefit of his perspective and experience. He can help you navigate difficult situations that you may encounter at work, and find long-term strategies to help prevent them from recurring. Whatever you're going through, there's a good chance that your mentor has been there already.
2. A mentor will bring her unbiased opinions and new perspectives. A mentor can be a great sounding board for issues--whether it's a difficulty with your immediate supervisor, an ethical dilemma, or brainstorming how to tackle a new project or ask for a raise. A mentor can help you look at situations in new ways. She can ask hard questions and help you solve problems.
3. A mentor will generate motivation and precipitate productivity. A mentor can teach you skills that will help you stay more productive and keep your motivation going when you feel success is out of reach. Great mentors are able to keep us on track and motivated.
4. A mentor will bring his network and connections. A mentor can expand your network of contacts and business acquaintances. He can open doors and make new introductions, get you invited to industry events, and connect you to influential people in your field.
5. A mentor will be a great champion and loyal ally. A good mentor will both defend you and goad you, all to keep you from doing less with your life than you're capable of. A true mentor reminds you never to settle for mediocrity.
6. A mentor will help with defining goals and command a vision clear. She can help you define your path and ensure that you don't lose focus under the distraction of day-to-day pressures. She helps you clarify your goals and keep your eyes on the horizon.
7. A mentor will be responsible and hold you accountable. Setting goals and reaching them is pivotal to the mentoring relationship, and that means backing up your words with action. A mentor makes sure that's happening.
Mentors are everywhere, but finding a good one is not always easy--look for someone you admire who is where you want to be and approach him or her about being your mentor.
Evaluate your own network and find a mentor among your contacts and connections. And remember, once you've found a good mentor, don't let it be just a one-way street. Always end your meetings with your mentor by asking, "Is there anything I can help you with?"