5 ways to pick the right mentor for your career

The right mentor can shape the course of your career — here’s what to look for in one.

The right mentor can shape the course of your career — here’s what to look for in one.

Don’t pick someone who will sugarcoat things too much

You’ll want someone who will tell you what you need to hear, because there’s always room for improvement.

Besides, wouldn’t you want your mentor to let you know if you could be doing something better before someone else does? Chances are, it’ll sound much better coming from them than from someone intimidating in senior management.

Not good at accepting constructive criticism? Look no further than this guide.

Look for common ground

Debby Carreau, author, entrepreneur, CEO and founder of Inspired HR, writes in Entrepreneur that one of the questions you should be asking yourself when looking for a mentor is, “are your world views and philosophies aligned?”

“You can’t force this,” she writes. “Take a good, hard look at your proposed mentor’s outlook on life, your field and company’s values before committing. The odds of finding someone who matches you 100 percent are slim and a moot point if you are going to grow into an -improved and therefore different — version of yourself over time. Focus on life philosophies, such as: learning, determination, thoughtfulness and trust.”

Find someone who can introduce you to other important contacts

You never know how many degrees of separation you are from someone who might change your life.

Former Cosmopolitan Editor-In-Chief Kate White previously told Ladders about how important this is, emphasizing the idea that, “ultimately, what you really want is someone to really help you understand the field, and what steps you must take, and then, if possible, open doors.”

Pick someone who can answer your questions

The right mentor will be able to draw on their experience to answer questions you have about your job and career. If they don’t have the answer, they shouldn’t have a problem pointing you in direction of someone else who can.

But for the most part, you should feel very comfortable coming to them with your professional concerns.

Think about your goals

Camille Preston, CEO of AIM Leadership, writes in Fortune that when contemplating mentorship, you should “look for clues of success.”

“Successful people are successful for a reason. People who have achieved greatness in an area of their lives are typically using great strategies. And these people tend to make excellent mentors,” she writes. “So when looking for a mentor, look for the clues of success. Think about what is important to you and the things you want to achieve personally and professionally. Do you want to be a better businessperson, mother, leader, yogi, speaker, writer, etc.? Start to look for people around you who exemplify the skills you want to acquire.”

Jane Burnett|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at jburnett@theladders.com.