Ask any career development expert how to succeed in the workplace, and they’ll probably tell you to find a mentor. I couldn’t agree more – I’ve been fortunate enough to have some incredible mentors over the course of my life, and they’ve given me immeasurable support and encouragement when I’ve needed it most.
But what does it mean to “find” a mentor? People rarely explain what a good mentor looks like, much less how to go about spotting one.
So, I thought I’d write about it. Without fail, my mentors have fit into what I’ve come to call my “5 mentor archetypes”: the Advisor, the Role Model, the Listener, the Motivator, and the Achiever. Below, you’ll find examples of each mentor archetype – and tips on how to spot the mentors-to-be in your life:
Archetype 1: The Advisor
Ever known someone who had a piece of advice for every situation? Someone you knew you could count on for a handy aphorism or a timely story, just when you needed it the most? For me, that person has always been my dad. He has tips for practically everything, including such gems as, “Never start a sentence with an apology,” and, “Always wear your nametag on the right side of your shirt – that way, when you shake someone’s hand, your nametag will face toward them.”
Behind any good Advisor is an ability to distill life lessons into short, memorable soundbites. I’ll never forget my dad’s “3 Rules of Business,” which have guided my work over the years at Yahoo!, at my own startup, at Google, and now at Change.org. Rule 1: More is better than less. Rule 2: Sooner is better than later. And, of course, rule 3: Don’t work with jerks. (That one has come in really handy.)
To find your Advisor, seek out people who excel at things you want to learn, and ask for guidance. You’ll find that some people, like my dad, always make themselves available to give advice that works, because they thrive on helping others succeed. Trust me – you want those people in your corner, sharing their wisdom and cheering you on.
Archetype 2: The Role Model
The name really says it all, doesn’t it? The Role Model mentors by doing. My mom was, and still is, the quintessential Role Model, showing me through her life that it is possible to have a great career and be a great mom at the same time. With two kids and a full-time job, she got her MBA at night and completely changed careers in her 30s, applying and interviewing for 50 jobs before finally getting one – and going on to become a very successful consulting partner. Yes, she did this with a supportive spouse, but what stood out to me as a young woman was her endless energy, stemming from a deep-seated belief that persistence and passion pay off.
To find a Role Model, look for someone who’s living the life you envision for yourself. Then ask them how they did it. Try to get at the underlying values that drive their work, and think about which ones you might embrace for yourself.