I am at an interesting point in my life. Having finished my doctorate just a handful of months ago, I was lucky enough to have excellent mentors from my early adulthood to the present who have helped me reach goals that seemed, at times impossible. I’ve also been let down a fair few times, as well.
But, at the same time, I am now seeing more students and young people come to me for mentorship, and I want to fulfill my moral and professional obligations to them as well. With that in mind, I want, today, to get down on paper for you, as well as myself, some qualities that I think are important for good mentors.
First and foremost, a mentor ought to be someone with some experience in something that the mentee wants to do. Real-world experience, with all of its struggles, trials, and successes, is the best teacher that I know of in this world.
Today, there are whole industries of people who claim to be mentors, from real-estate to investing and even academia, and no small number of them are more than willing to sell you classes and hold conferences, for outrageous speaking fees, to “mentor” you despite having little experience in doing much of anything except selling classes and speaking engagements.
As a mentee, you should carefully vet who you trust. Even if your potential mentor has not walked the same path that you plan to, make sure that they have at least done something interesting and relevant with their time in the recent past. Of course, perspectives and experiences different from your own are valuable, too, so try not to simply look for someone who is an older version of yourself.
For potential mentors, do not be afraid to tell someone that you cannot directly help them. Instead, agree to try to find someone who is a better fit, and learn something yourself in the process.