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How to Choose a Career Mentor

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Who is your ideal mentor? Why do you desire this person for this most important role? Beware of a common mistake when attempting to make this decision, which is being impressed with someone’s press clippings and career accomplishments.

Most fields have people who sit on a number of boards, committees, etc. related to their career path. Other veteran leaders are very public and vocal at events you may be attending. Early in my career, I was attracted to potential mentors who were “getting things done” or who are very knowledgeable about my fields of interest. I discovered it was important to evaluate “how they were getting things done” vs. just admiring the end result.

In addition, some leaders who are very knowledgeable are allowed the time to make various public appearances due to having top quality supervisory and front line staff. The person in the number two and three position in their organization runs the day-to-day operations. This person may be better suited to a newer professional attempting to learn more about their profession. A less public veteran leader, of a smaller organization, may also have more time to commit to mentoring someone. They may be looking for someone to mentor and replace them upon retirement.

Questions to think about include:

- Is the potential mentor OK in the role?

- Does the potential mentor understand the dynamics of mentoring?

- Where is the potential mentor in his or her own career?

- Has the potential mentor successfully mentored others?

- Does the potential mentor’s style match your needs?

Careful mentor selection is a key to your success.

Kenneth McGhee is the author of Eleven Leadership Tips For Supervisors. This book is available online at www.booksurge.com and www.amazon.com. You may contact Kenneth at kmcghee@niu.edu.

How to Choose a Career Mentor
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