How do I choose a career mentor?

Career & Education

How do I choose a career mentor?

Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith

Sunday, September 29, 2019

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Dear Career Advisor:

I hope you will be able to help me. I recently landed an entry-level position for which I am really excited as I dream of being successful in this field. Several people have suggested that I get a career mentor. There are many people in my organisation who appear to be successful, but the challenge is that I don't know how to choose or who to approach. And what if I get rejected?

Yours truly,


Dear Marvin:

Congratulations! Landing an entry-level position in a career area for which you have strong interest is an excellent springboard from which to begin your career. It is also good that you are being cautious about selecting a career mentor. Just a word of caution: don't define career success by appearance or the trappings of material things. It is very important that you take the time and effort to choose wisely.

Having the right mentor is one of the most valuable means of enhancing personal and professional development. Under the tutelage of a suitable mentor you will have the advantage of receiving specific career-related guidance that will help to propel you along your journey. As you rightly suggested, the secret lies in being able to identify a really good one. Be patient, invest time to do your research before making a decision. Consider the suggestions below to help you in the selection process.

• Determine your career goal – Envision what career success for you would be like. In other words, what do you perceive would be happening in your life for you to consider yourself successful. Identify an individual who is living that dream, but remember that wealth is not the only determinant of success.

• Shared values – Try to find someone whose values are very similar to yours. If your values and ethical standards are very different from those of your mentor, there is likely to be conflict or disillusionment. Honest and integrity, if important to you, should also be important to your potential mentor. Do your background checks.

• Willingness – It is important to find someone who is willing to serve as your mentor. Don't be too eager to convince someone because you are star struck by their accomplishments. An unwilling and uncommitted mentor may lead to more career harm than good.

• Personality – Ask yourself if you would be comfortable being mentored by someone whose personality type is very different from yours.

• Communication – Personality types often influence communication styles. Ensure that the person you select is able to effectively convey to you his/her thoughts and the strategies that led him/her to success.

• Clarify expectations – It is important to establish the expectations you will have of your mentor and vice versa. Personal issues and considerations are best left outside of the relationship with a career mentor.

• Genuineness – Believe it or not, even professionals can be selfish. Try to determine if your prospective mentor is consenting for selfish reasons, such as to be able to later brag that you were mentored by him/her.

• Availability – Find someone who will have the time to provide you with feedback, advice, coaching, constructive criticism, and engage you in other meaningful career related activities eg: research projects.

• Patience – Be patient in your search and selection.

• Be bold – Don't fear rejection. If a prospect you have considered says no, politely thank them and move on.

It would also be useful to find out if your organisation has a career mentorship programme. If there is none, get suggestions from your human resource manager as to which individuals you could probably consider.

Wishing you every success in identifying a mentor that's right for you.


Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith is associate vice-president of Student Services at Northern Caribbean University in Manchester. submit your questions t her at

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