5 factors to consider when choosing a mentor
Editor’s note: Occasionally, something from the past speaks to the present (and the future). This April 2020 column from American Nurse Journal editor-in-chief Lillee Gelinas, DNP, RN, CPPS, FAAN, does just that.
Continuing development throughout our careers sometimes presents challenges, but mentors can help. The fastest way to get ahead is to study the experts and do what they do. After all, no one has the time to learn everything from scratch. But how do we find others who can mentor us as we travel our professional paths? What’s the best way to benefit from their expertise? Here are five factors that have helped me along the way. Maybe they can help you, too.
1. Character: Character is a vital quality for a mentor. Your mentor should be someone you respect, admire, and want to emulate. The best mentors have high degrees of integrity, ethical decision-making, and good judgment. As you study and learn from them, you’ll tend to pattern your behavior after theirs.
2. Competence: A mentor should have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to help you grow. Competence also builds confidence, both of which are essential qualities for mentors who are guiding you across career path.
3. Openness: This factor goes both ways. Your willingness to open yourself up to another’s guidance and advice can be tough at first (especially if you don’t know the mentor well), but it’s key to understanding their influence and what they can offer you. Your mentor should be willing to help you meet your goals and be open to what you want to achieve to be successful.
4. Clear goals and milestones: Think about what you want to achieve before seeking a mentor. You can better identify the person who can help you based on their talents. For example, I knew I wanted to obtain a doctor of nursing practice. With that vision in mind, I sought a mentor who could inform me about what the path would look like and what challenges I might have to overcome.
5. Dedicated time: Most mentors stay engaged when they know their efforts are well worth their time. Send thank-you notes, updates, and short stories that show your progress. Set meeting times and stick to them. Express your gratitude often.
You’ll likely have more than one mentor during your career. Seek different mentors as your career evolves and choose them based on your situation at that time. In my 35 years of practice, I’ve been grateful for six mentors who supported and guided me as my career progressed. And I learned that the more you help others, the more they’ll help you and give right back.
Lillee Gelinas, DNP, RN, CPPS, FAAN
American Nurse Journal. 2022; 17(12). Doi: 10.51256/ANJ122204