6 Traits to Look for in a Mentor

6 Traits to Look for in a Mentor

When I was younger, I never looked for a mentor. At the same time, I was both confident and scared when it came to my career development.

Had I actually found a mentor while I was growing up, I might be in a very different place than I am now.

While I wouldn't change my experiences, and definitely wouldn't change where I am in life, it would be interesting to know if I could have gotten further faster if I'd found a mentor earlier.

Not everyone should be a mentor; not even every person who has seen success.

But, if I were able to tell my younger self about mentoring, not only would I say, “You gotta do this Ellory”, but I'd share what traits make up a good mentor.

If I could go back in time fifteen years, this is what I would tell myself…

6 Traits to Look for in a Mentor

Photo Credit: Daniel Y. Go via Compfight cc

Ellory, wipe that weird look off your face and listen. I'm you from the future.

It doesn't matter how smart you are or how educated you are; you can't see everything coming. You need people on your side to look out for you, guide you, and help you through the roadblocks of life.

If you want to be successful, you need a mentor.

Over the next several years, you will face some difficulties. I won't tell you about them because they turn you into who I am today, with this awesome ability to hop back in time to tell you something you need to hear.

Before I tell you about that, hear this.

Your network is too small. You don't know enough people. While you stay an introvert for your whole life, the earlier you get out of your comfort zone and connect with people, the earlier your see success.

Growing your network can start with one person. And that person should be chosen wisely as they will mentor and guide you until you move on.

So I want to tell you what to look out for; I want to tell you about the six traits to look for in a mentor so you can act with wisdom.

First, pick someone who does what you want to be doing in a year or two.

Right now you work for Brandon. He's got a family and is the manager of the Sonic you work at.

While you don't want to work at Sonic, you could learn a lot about business, managing people, and keeping things running smoothly.

I know you don't drink coffee yet, but offer to buy him a vanilla Coke and ask him how he got to where he is. Everyone loves working for him and that's not an easy thing to accomplish.

You can learn from almost everyone. Don't forget that.

Second, look for someone who is doing what you're doing, only at a larger scale.

As you progress through your career Ellory, you'll learn that successful people generally have more responsibility. As Peter Parker has told you in the cartoons, with great power comes great responsibility. And vice versa.

If you want to make a significant impact on the world, you have to earn the right to do so.

You should find a mentor who is having a larger impact than you are, learn their methods, and ask them what challenges they've faced a long the way.

You would be wise to learn from the mistakes of others; it's much easier that way.

Third, find someone who is 10-15 years older than you.

When you're my age, you'll have a friend named James. I'm not going to tell you his last name because I don't want you looking him up yet.

If you met him today, you might scare him off.

James is several years older and he works at a company you'll spend a short time with in the late 2000s.

Yes, I know older doesn't always mean wiser, but you can learn a lot from James and people like him.

A mentor who is a generation older can provide a lot of perspective on how things have changed over time, and can shed some light on what is coming.

Time allows wise people to see trends and can help you see what is a fad and what will stick around.

Mentors like James can also help guide you in your career. They can show you which paths to take and provide assistance if necessary.

They also know more people than you and can introduce you to some of their friends. If you're not a douche. So don't be one around them.

Fourth, look for a mentor who has come from a very different background.

You were born and raised in Texas but there's a whole world out there. Find a mentor who has a completely different background than you and who can expose you to new ways of thinking.

If you can find someone who is successful and who immigrated to the United States, that would be perfect. Americans often forget that we're only one country out of hundreds and learning from someone who came from “the outside world” will help give you perspective.

In a few years you'll go to Madrid, Spain. Spoiler alert, your trip is awesome! Take that time to see how businesses run over there and realize there's more than one way to do things and more than one way to be successful.

Almost done and you can go back to playing video games.

Fifth, find a mentor who can help get you where you want to go.

Yep, that does sound selfish. But, if you don't act like you're driven no one will assume you are (Tweetable?).

Now is a perfect time to invest in your future and find someone who can help you get where you want to go.

Learn all you can from this mentor and share your accomplishments with them. If you've chosen well, they might be able to connect you to someone who you can work with in the future.

The sooner you realize that nothing great has ever been accomplished by one person working alone, the better off you'll be.

Find a mentor who can help and connect you, but be prepared to do the same thing for other people a few years from now.

Lastly, look for a mentor outside of your industry.

Yes, I know you like technology and yes, I still think everyone should know more about computers, but not everyone does or cares to.

Most companies and industries have their own language. You and your techy friends can talk about Pendulum processors and jiggawatts all day but no one will know what you're talking about.

If you want to be successful, you need to get good at communicating and connecting with people who are outside of your niche.

What's a niche?

Great question young grasshopper. A niche is a small or specific area of focus, like focusing on people who work at Sonic to feed their video game habit.

Getting outside of your niche or industry will give you a wider point of view and that is always a good thing.

And that's it Ellory. That's what I have to tell you.

Find a mentor, at least one, preferably way more.

Asking for advice doesn't make you look weak, it makes you seem wise (Tweet that!). Remember, you can't do it alone and you need to start growing your network now.

As the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is today.

Don't worry that you don't know what that means, just remember it.

One last piece of advice before I go.

Help people even when it's not convenient for you. Scratch that,help people especially when it's not convenient for you.

No one hops in their car on a sunny Sunday afternoon, when they have nothing to do, and go looking for people stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire.

Help people when they need it, not when you're ready to offer it (Tweet that!).

Before I slip back to 2014, don't dive head first into the pool after graduation; don't race with Charlie, the cop will catch you; hug dad for me.

Oh, and buy stock in a startup called


Question: What would you tell yourself from 15 years ago? What do you look for when searching for a quality mentor?


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  • Ashley says:

    Great article! I like the perspective and humor you brought to this one.

    I’d tell my 15 year-old self to enjoy college and those four years more…studying wasn’t all it cracked up to be 🙂

  • Ashley says:

    Great article! I like the perspective and humor you brought to this one.

    I’d tell my 15 year-old self to enjoy college and those four years more…studying wasn’t all it cracked up to be 🙂

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