It's no secret that finding a great mentor can be key to achieving your career goals, but not everyone has what it takes to be the mentor you need. A successful mentor needs to have more than just experience and good intentions to provide mentees with real value.
Below, six entrepreneurs share the top qualities they look for in a mentor and describe how their past mentors have made a difference in their professional lives.
Relevant Successful Experience
"For me, one of the most important qualities when finding a mentor is relevant experience," says Chris Christoff, co-founder of WordPress MonsterInsights. After all, it's easier for someone to help you succeed if they've been down a similar career path themselves.
"Ideally, they would have a track record of success in their field and be someone who I can learn from. When you find someone who has that relevant experience, it should be easy asking them questions and getting to know them better," says Christoff.
A great mentor encourages you to think for yourself, using the benefit of their past experiences to help you through your own unique situations. "The best mentors in my life haven't told me what to do but instead have helped me think through problems by asking smart questions," says Brennan White, CEO of intelligent creative decision-making platform Cortex.
"As experienced or successful as they are, their knowledge of your specific scenario is secondary to your own. The way they help most is by applying their process of thinking and questioning to your scenario and letting you see what they'd be thinking about," White adds.
As crucial as it is to find a mentor who understands you, it can be equally important to find someone who looks at your situation through a less personal lens -- and helps you to do the same in order to separate important decisions from your emotions.
Kristin Marquet, founder and creative director of media company FemFounder.co, says, "I've had several mentors throughout my career, and the best quality that they all had in common was the ability to look at a situation and provide objective feedback and insight, which helped me look at the situation through an objective lens and attack it head on."
"I've had many mentors help me through my education and career with varying levels of effectiveness," says Bryce Welker, CEO of LSAT review service Crush The LSAT. A mentor can be a great thing, but not everyone is a perfect fit for you. If your mentor is too quick to throw in the towel, it probably wasn't the right match to begin with.
"The mentors who made the greatest impact on me were the ones who demonstrated patience as I failed over and over, waiting for the lessons they imparted to me to truly click in my head," adds Welker. "Above all else, an effective mentor must have patience and avoid trying to hasten or force the learning process."
The road to success is rarely smooth for anyone, so it's important to find a mentor who will stay in your corner, especially when things get rough. That's why Turgay Birand, founder and CEO of e-book DRM service EditionGuard, advocates the importance of perseverance.
"All great mentors are investing their valuable time to see ROI, which is the success of their mentees and the joy of having helped another human being," he says. "Like all investments, this takes a great deal of patience. Mentors should aim to be there for the long run and persevere through thick and thin to help their mentees succeed in the end."
"Effective mentorship isn't just about leading or encouraging, but coaching," says Amanda Elms, CEO and founder of genetic counseling solution Metis Genetics, LLC. At its heart, mentorship is essentially coaching: a process of helping another make improvements toward accomplishing specific goals.
"Two incredible mentors have coached me through scenarios in which their expertise was invaluable," adds Elms. "For hours, they sat with me and shared their knowledge to both educate me and strengthen my skills. Through their coaching, I became a better founder/leader/entrepreneur, which enhances my ability to mentor others."