8 Ways a Mentor Will Help You Find Career Success

Mentor Career Success

Success Tweet: Find a mentor. Mentors are positive people who will help you find the lessons in your experience and use them to move forward.

This is a long post, because mentors are an important source of career advice. The term “mentor” comes from The Odyssey. Odysseus entrusted the care of his son, Telemachus, to Mentor when he set out to fight the Trojan War. The best mentors will help you learn and grow by sharing their knowledge and wisdom with you. In this way, you can benefit from their experience without having to suffer the consequences of gaining that experience firsthand.

Mentors are positive people by definition. It takes a positive person to give of himself of herself to help another learn, grow and succeed.

I have been fortunate to have had several mentors in my life and career. All of them shared several characteristics. They are…

  • Were willing to share their wisdom, knowledge, skills and expertise.
  • Had a positive outlook on life. They helped me through tough times and showed me how to find the opportunity in the difficulties I was facing.
  • Were genuinely concerned about me and my success. In addition to be knowledgeable, they were empathic.
  • Really knew what they were doing. I respected them for their knowledge and skills.
  • Kept growing themselves. All of my mentors were curious and inquisitive. Sometimes the roles were reversed. They asked what I was reading, and then read the books themselves – so they could learn and we could discuss the ideas.
  • Gave me direct, constructive feedback. They held me to high standards. They congratulated me when I met their expectations. They corrected me when I failed to do so – but in a manner where I learned what not to do the next time.
  • Were respected by their colleagues. People who are highly regarded in their field or company make the best mentors.
  • Sought out and valued the opinions of others. My best mentor always told me to listen most carefully to the people with whom I disagreed – in that way I might learn something. And, he was right.

As the old saying goes, a mentor is someone whose hindsight can become your foresight.

Do you want to find a mentor? Just look around you. Who are the people you admire and want to emulate? Watch what they do, and do the same. I’ve had several mentors who never even realized they were mentoring me.

I learned how to build a network of solid contacts by watching Maggie Watson. I learned the rules of business etiquette and dressing for success by watching Bill Rankin. I learned how to become a first rate public speaker by watching Steve Roesler. I learned how to become a trusted advisor by watching Don Nelson. I learned how to carry myself with dignity in even the most difficult situations by watching JF and Carol Kiernan. I learned how to become a better conversationalist by watching Cathy, my wife.

The reverse is also true. I’ve learned plenty about what not to do to build self esteem, give performance feedback and treat people with respect and dignity from observing a few of my  managers over the years.

I’ve found if you want to have an acknowledged mentoring relationship, all you have to do is ask. Go to the people you admire and tell them you admire their judgment and would like to learn from them. Ask if you can impose on their time to get answers to questions you have. I have never had anyone turn me down when I’ve asked this way.

Just as it’s important to find someone you respect to mentor you, it also important to mentor others. You don’t have to be in a formal leadership position or have years and years of experience to mentor someone else. It’s never too early to become a mentor. We all have something to give, and the sooner you begin giving the better. If you’re in college, you can mentor high school students. If you’re a recent graduate, you can mentor others still in school.

I take great joy in mentoring other people. I love it when I can use my experience to help accelerate the growth of someone else. It takes the sting out of some of the negative consequences I’ve experienced because of poor judgment. I think to myself, “At least he or she won’t have to go through that.”

In his great book Love is the Killer App, Tim Sanders tells the story of how he turned one of the people who worked for him from a “mad dog” into a “lovecat.” The advice is simple: “Offer your wisdom freely… and always be human.”

Tim is right on. Mentoring is a great way to become a lovecat by serving others. The more you serve others, the more confidence – and success – will come your way. Besides that, you’ll grow by mentoring. As you reflect on your life experiences and distill them into some nuggets you can share with others your knowledge will become wisdom. In addition to being better able to help others learn and grow, you will be better able to take advantage of what you know. You never learn something so completely as when you teach it to another person.

Any mentoring relationship needs to focus on the person being mentored. While mentoring someone will most often a satisfying experience for you, remember it is not about you – it’s about the other person. Accept him or her for who he or she is. Help him or her proceed at his or her own place. The best mentoring relationships are guided by the person being mentored.

Mentoring should be a positive experience for both of you. That means you need to avoid treating a person you are mentoring as incompetent or incapable. Rather, think of him or her as someone lacking in experience and who needs guidance. Don’t criticize. Help the other person think through the consequences of his or her behavior and to identify more positive ways of handling difficult or troubling situations.

Hold the person you are mentoring responsible for his or her success. Give him or her small assignments. Don’t let him or her off the hook if he or she fails to complete them. Be willing to give of yourself and your time, but make sure the other person is doing so too.

Realize the relationship will end. If you’ve done a good job, the person you are mentoring will need to move on at some point. It’s all part of the cycle. It can be hard to let go, but feel good about seeing someone move on to bigger and better things – and another mentor.

I’ve created an acronym to define what it takes to become a good mentor. A good mentor…

M – Motivates you to accomplish more than you think you can.
E – Expects the best of you.
N – Never gives up on you or lets you give up on yourself.
T – Tells you the truth, even when it hurts.
O – Occasionally kicks your butt.
R – Really cares about you and your success.

Look for people with these qualities when you are searching for a mentor.  Embody them yourself when you are mentoring others.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple. Mentors can help you create the life and career success you want and deserve. Success people follow the career advice in Tweet 51 in Success Tweets, “Find a mentor. Mentors are positive people who will help you find the lessons in your experiences and use them to move forward.”

You can enter into a formal mentoring relationship. Or you can just observe people you admire. They can mentor you without even realizing they are doing so. And, it’s never too early to become a mentor yourself. There is always someone who needs your career advice; someone who needs to know what you’ve already learned. Be a positive person. Help others achieve the life and career success they want and deserve.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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  1. PAUL Olajide says:

    Hi sir, sincerely have never read it like this before. Highly inspiring and insightful. Thanks sir.

    Will love to write like this on blog.

  2. Gwendolyn says:

    Hey this is kinda of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML.

    I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding experience so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  3. Gwendolyn,

    I use WordPress to run my blog. There is no coding involved.

    I suggest you give it a try.

    Best of luck,


  4. Elizabeth says:

    I just saw this and read it and thought that it was so true. As a freshman in high school in a journalism program, my editor in chief mentored me and your acronym perfectly described her. This has helped me for the person that I’m mentoring now, and I am so grateful for this article.

  5. Good for you, Elizabeth.

    My high school journalism teacher didn’t like me. I’m glad you’ve found a mentor.

    If you haven’t shown her thee article and acronym and your comment here, please do so. It will make her day.

    All the best,


  6. Great article Bud. I like the quote you included “a mentor is someone whose hindsight can become your foresight”, never really thought about it like that before.

    You should check out my site. I just updated a social networking app I created to bring mentors and students together. The intent is to have professionals mentor students to help them define a career choice (before they get too far in life).

  7. Craig, please send me the url for your site. Thank you.

  8. It was great ! Reading the above article. Also please write about reverse mentoring.

    How can a millennial (young) professional mentor people at senior leadership level and executive level.

  9. Suhas,

    You have to make sure that the senior person is willing to be mentored.

    I am 64 years old and I have several millennial mentors who help me with my digital marketing.

    But I am open to learning new things and am willing to learn from anybody who has the skills, knowledge and expertise I am lacking.

    My best advice to you is to always be willing to help. You’ll gain a reputation as a helpful, knowledgeable person and you’ll find that senior people will begin seeking out your help.

    All the best,


  10. Thank you so much sir. God bless you sir for the insight that is been shared. I never knew as a graduate, I can also mentor people. Now that I have known I ll start. Thank u n God bless.

  11. I. A. Dickson says:

    Respect to you for your post. That in many ways is a plus to your leadership skill. I have a sub-tittle on mentoring in one of my books ‘come soon’ and comparing with yours I must say “thank you” for giving a comformation, confidence and motivation. I wish I had you close as a mentor…

  12. Thanks for your kind words. Feel free to email me Bud@BudBilanich.com if you want to talk careers and mentoring.

  13. Thanks for sharing this advice! The acronym is a really great way to remember the qualities that a good mentor should have. If your mentor doesn’t expect the best out of you, then how can you expect them to help you expect the most out of yourself? Also, do you happen to know of a place where I can find a mentor to help me succeed?

  14. Bud-
    This is a great article. I have been a mentor to many people over my career in healthcare. It is a real honor to be selecter as a mentor. It is too bad that more people do not understand this. They are too busy in their own life to share the experience with someone else.
    Remember: The rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.

  15. Great point Michael — I especially like your advice that the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.

  16. usman1122 says:

    Couldn’t agree more with you. I was looking for a mentor to help me through the challenges of starting my own business, and I found this website where hundreds of mentors have joined to help mentees in almost all fields of life. You can also find mentors online for free here: http://findamentor.com. Search your mentor and start the discussion right away.

  17. Thanks for your comment. findamentor.com is a great resource.

  18. taofeek oladejo says:

    thanks sir, am reading is article for the firs time and it torching. kudus sir. learn a lot it, good lession for me and not for me alone even anyone who read it

  19. Gregory Haynes says:

    I need a mentor I just got out of prison

  20. I’m sure that your parole officer or local social services agency can help you. Best of luck as you move forward.

  21. I blog often and I truly thank you for your information. The article
    has really peaked my interest. I am going to book mark your blog and keep checking for new details about once a
    week. I subscribed to your Feed as well.

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