"Mentor" is a buzzword that's especially popular among the millennial workforce—but what does it actually mean? To find out, Metro sat down with leadership coach and author Lolly Daskal, founder of Lead from Within.
"Mentorship is about having goals and finding a person who has experience, can share knowledge, and give advice to someone who's less experienced," she says. "They're basically role models; somebody who's been there, done that, and can support you, encourage you, and give suggestions."
Looking to land the perfect mentor? If so, Daskal drives home the importance of keeping the following tips in mind.
GET CLEAR ON WHAT YOU WANT
The truth is that being a mentor is a very special (and time-consuming) relationship. Before you waste your own time or somebody else's, take a minute to clarify what it is you want from them.
"Get clear on exactly what you're asking of this person," says Daskal. "You can't go to them and just ask them to mentor you without defining what it is you need help with."
Clarifying what you want will help lead you to the best potential mentor. It'll also give them some guidance in terms of what they can do for you.
GET YOURSELF MULTIPLE MENTORS
Who says you're only allowed to have one role model? According to Daskal, spreading out your needs across multiple mentors is a great tactic.
"We shouldn't just have one mentor," she says. "Let's say you have a startup; get a finance person, a lawyer, and others. Having specialty mentors keeps you from bogging down one mentor with everything."
REACH OUT TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE
When it comes to finding the right person to guide you, being picky about who you choose is a good thing. Daskal advises against zeroing in on someone who simply claims expertise. Instead, look for someone who's reputable and has a track record of being successful.
"It's very important to find the right person to be mentoring you," she says. "Do your homework and pick someone who shares your values and who you resonate with."
It's also key to select somebody who can expand on what you already know. The perfect person is someone who's an experience level above you, understands your plight, wants to help, and has already mastered the skills you want for yourself.
CHOOSE SOMEONE WHO'LL BE REAL WITH YOU
Honesty is really key here. According to Daskal, a good mentor won't shy away from what she calls "honest talk."
"You need to find someone who'll have courageous conversations with you and hold you accountable for where you're slacking," she says. "They have to be able to give you honest feedback and maybe push your buttons a little bit."
TREAT IT LIKE A RECIPROCAL RELATIONSHIP
One of the biggest mistakes Daskal sees is when mentees make the relationship all about them. In reality, it's a two-sided connection.
"Show up in the relationship with respect, instead of just looking for what they can do for you," she says. "Always end every conversation by asking what it is you can do for them."
Nurturing the relationship in this way just might make your mentor more likely to let you tap into their network.
KNOW WHEN IT'S TIME TO WALK AWAY
Like any relationship, mentorships eventually come to an end. Be sure to acknowledge when it's time to move on.
"Maybe you only needed a mentor for a certain skill or certain project that's now coming to an end," says Daskal. "For example, launching a startup usually requires a mentor for 18 to 24 months. Regardless, you need to be mindful and respectful of when it's over, while being grateful for whatever the mentor was able to give you."
In other words, take what you've learned and pay it forward.