Two Ears and One Mouth: Selecting and Becoming a Great Mentor

Photo:  AdobeStock

Photo: AdobeStock


You are never too old, or too young, to seek mentorship or to take a mentee under your wing. Mentors can be beneficial especially for us students during matriculation of graduate school. What good mentors do are take a cloudy bunch of possibilities that us eager first semester graduate students see and reduce them to a very small number of well defined and articulate goals for the future. Mentors can help us refine our goals over 3-5 years, and create clarity as to what skills, resources, and milestones we need to achieve the desired skillset needed for our career goals.


But how do I choose a mentor?  While it would be easy to turn to your academic advisor for mentorship, that might not always be what is best. Advising to me in a sense is synonymous with coaching; meaning our advisors coach us on how to study, take notes, and give us a playbook of courses so when we get into the huddle with them once a semester, we can run the most effective plays towards our degree in the form of required courses. A relationship with your mentor needs to be authentic and organic, which simply can’t be achieved when you meet with somebody once every 15 weeks.


The mentor that you choose should be one that can help change your life and become a better version of yourself. They are the individual that reaches out to you outside of scheduled meeting times, and are proactive in making you feel comfortable with them while reducing status related friction. For me my mentors come in the form of my parents, teachers from primary and secondary school, sports coaches, friends that genuinely have my best interest at heart, and a few business owners.


How could I be a mentor if I’m not established in my career? The beautiful part about having a mentee, is that you don’t have to be a President or CEO of a company to take somebody under your wing. Being a mentor is all about seeing the potential in an individual and helping then hone in on their skills.


We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. In being a mentor, listen and probe your mentee with questions to gauge their current knowledge level on the topic. Only then can you give feedback and start to establish resources for the individual to utilize on their long-term career path. It is your job to expand their world through connections, give difficult feedback, and be their cheerleader.


Think about this…you are more than likely reading this blog right now on your smartphone…on an app that has only been around for 12 years. Many well-established professionals may not necessarily understand the power of social media and apps such as Twitter or even LinkedIn that could greatly expand their world.


Perfect example, on LinkedIn when you create a FREE account you have access to LinkedIn Learning. A database that has thousands of courses on any topic that you could think of. For those senior-level executives who come from the days of reading books to gain more knowledge on their field; introducing them to a tool such as LinkedIn learning will allow them to broaden their knowledge in any field, at a fraction of the time. By helping them become a better version of themselves in that sense, you have just taken on a mentorship role with a senior executive.


Above all else mentorship on both ends needs to be authentic and organic. You need to be able to give and receive difficult feedback whilst also being a cheerleader. Lastly I really believe that every so often you take a step back and evaluate yourself as a mentor or the mentee (You might not always be the right mentor for somebody and that’s ok). Sometimes I find that I may have hit a plateau, or that me and the individual are simply making good conversation but no progress towards career goals. A self-check is imperative so that we can reevaluate and redefine steps to ensure we are making the right moves on our career path.


About the Author

Donovan Burriss is a Sports Management M.S. Student at Indiana University of PA. He graduated from Frostburg State University with a B.S. in Kinesiology while also focusing on Management and Small Business Administration. 

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