Wax-on or Wax-off: Choosing the Right Sensei

For any “green around the gills,” contributing member to society, like most millennials are today, there’s one critical task that many forget or don’t find significance in completing appropriately: finding the right mentor. Maybe there’s a huge mental divide between the mindset for being successful in college versus being successful in the real world that causes our newly inducted “adults” to deem this step unnecessary in their pursuit toward world domination within their career. BUT…that’s just a BIG “maybe” from my hypothetical thinking. Whatever the reason may actually be, we as entrepreneurs, leaders, discoverers, and every other description under a growing human being canNOT stop seeking good teachers.

Just like our teachers in school, a mentor in the real world is supposed to be a guide on our path of personal development and growth. They help us figure out where we are, where we want to be, and what’s the general direction we need to take in order to get to a more ideal version of ourselves. Ultimately, we have to take the steps ourselves without the mentor holding our hand, but they are a critical player in influencing our journey toward meeting our goals; hence the importance of choosing the right mentor.

Sadly, not everyone is cut out to be the perfect mentor for any aspiring, young worker. Even though someone willing to step into that role can and should be much appreciated, if the goals between the mentor and mentee are not aligned disaster in the form of resentment and confusion will ensue. There is a huge responsibility on the potential mentee in being “picky” with their future mentor. Some of the questions you need to ask when considering what advice to accept from the “right” mentor are:

  • Can I see myself in this potential mentor’s position within my desired career path? If the potential mentor candidate is not in a position you can see yourself in, is doing something you’re not interested in, or has a drastically different educational upbringing, you should be respectfully cautious with their advice. There’s nothing wrong with taking their perspective into account with making future decisions as you’re learning, but they shouldn’t hold as much weight compared to the advice coming from someone who’s in a position you can see yourself in eventually.
  • Do you admire their leadership style? Is your potential mentor able and willing to listen to a different opinion? Do they follow through with what they say they’re going to do? Are their values aligned with yours? If your potential mentor doesn’t demonstrate the leader you aspire to become based on the previous questions, then they’re not going to help you get where you need and want to be in your career.
  • Do they challenge you? Not your authority, but do they give you reasonably difficult projects? A critical skill that good teachers and mentors have is having their pupil be able to become autonomous. Ever heard of the phrase, “give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime?” Yea…pretty much summarizes this whole post. But, they need to be there for more than just a simple fishing lesson. Do they critique you on your errors? Do they celebrate your victories with you? These are qualities of a great leader, which go hand-in-hand with also being a great mentor

Probably the toughest thing, sadly, for a mentee is actually rejecting a potential mentor if they do not fill the criteria above. Just like with any other refusal, delivering the message with courtesy and respect is all one can do. The mentee should provide all the personal reasons and objectives for the mentor selection, if it comes to that, in order to not burn any bridges in a professional manner. As mentioned above, it doesn’t mean you don’t EVER have to take their advice in certain situations. Just be selective in regards to your career goals and desired leadership style. Ultimately, you want your mentor to help build you up and empower you to be the very best leader you can become.

Give a shoutout to a mentor that has helped you out with your personal development. I’ve had many throughout my life, but recently the one who has helped me the most has been my coworker Jason Sanchez. Thanks so much, Jason!

Photo credit: https://freshfromthequarry.com/2015/08/21/karatekid/

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