What Makes a Good Mentor

I’m fortunate to have lots of good mentors and advisors. While I use the two words usually interchangeably, I think of a mentor as someone who can offer advice to me on issues besides business/entrepreneurship, whereas an advisor is only giving advice on business issues. I am lucky enough to have some who fit in both categories. Much has been written on advisory boards as a collective whole, but this post is about individual mentoring and advising from a recipients perspective…I left out the obvious points and left those that have any strain of originality.

  • Desired Mode of Communication: I love it when an advisor makes it clear what their preferred mode of communication is. “Email me anytime” versus “Give me a call when something comes up” are two lines that stick with me. I know I prefer not to receive an out of the blue phone call, preferring that someone emails to schedule a call. Other people (usually older) hate doing long emails.
  • Advice on Topics Outside Domain of Expertise: Some people feel like they can only offer advice on topics on which they are “qualified.” This frustrates me. When CEO John Doe decides to play college counselor, I know he is venturing into an area outside his domain, so if I want to take the advice with a grain of salt I can do so. But the important thing here is that when I build trusting relationships with older, successful people, I want to hear their thoughts on a variety of topics, not just the one that provided our connection.
  • Proactive Check-Ins: I love the feeling of getting an email from an advisor or mentor who I haven’t talked with in awhile saying “How’s everything going? Let’s catch up.” To know that they care means so much. If you are currently advising someone and you haven’t spoken with him/her for 6-8 months, send that exact message.
  • Introduction to Someone Less Busy: Most of my advisors are really busy, and I respect their time. That is why I love when I can be introduced to someone lower on the chain of command at the company who still could offer insights and feedback and would be more accessible.
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