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What do you look for in a mentor?

Kristen Roth Atlassian Team Oct 21, 2019

If you went to seek out a mentor today, would you know what to look for? These four qualities may not be the first things you'd think about when looking for a mentor, but they're important and shouldn't be overlooked:

  • Curious – they see the world as an expansive place and want to learn about it.
  • Secure – they’re comfortable in their own skin and won’t feel threatened if you make different choices than they would have.
  • Empathetic – they’re more interested in what’s going on inside you than how you dress or how much you make.
  • Patient – they’ll sit with you when you fall, and bring you through the try-fail-learn cycle again and again.

If you're a mentor or mentee (or both!), what's the most important aspect to you in your mentor-mentee relationship?

(Oh, and we've also got a great article on our blog, Work Life, that goes over how to build effective mentoring relationships and get the advice you need at each stage of your career. Check it out!)


Kat Marketplace Partner Oct 23, 2019

I read this on Linked In earlier today. Having a mentor sounds great but I don't know if I know what I'd do with one if I had one. Maybe a mentor could help me form a long-term plan instead of working in the moment.


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Kristen Roth Atlassian Team Oct 24, 2019

That definitely sounds like something a mentor would be able to help with, @Kat !

As a manager/mentor one of the things I try to remember is there is no hierarchy in humanity. In other words being sought as a mentor for certain skills opens up opportunities to learn new skills or new perspectives.  

Two mentors in my career, Ben Crothers and Ryan Rumsey taught me this by giving and receiving. They taught me different ways of looking at things through patience and an appreciation of my curiosity. They took the time to understand how I thought and identified a way to strengthen my natural tendencies.

On the occasion I was able to contribute, the contribution was validated, and in some cases resulted in an outcome neither of us expected. This experience was shared. The mentor never took credit, but celebrated the collaborative success. 

Seeing people as equal, the only difference being life experience, removes ego and allows honesty and creativity to flourish. 

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"there is no hierarchy in humanity" LOVE that, @Chris Carter . Thanks for sharing your thoughts! 

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Great post! I have had many mentors over my career, however they didn't necessarily know they were my mentor as it wasn't formal. I prefer informal as you don't have the awkward breakup when you have outgrown each other, like you do for formal mentoring initiatives. Don't get me wrong, formal mentoring is great too, I just prefer the flexibilty of informal. 

I see a skill or behaviour in someone that I am in awe over and I ask to meet them for lunch or coffee, tell them that I am impressed with their skill and would love to learn from them, and if they can share their tips and tricks and methods they have learned their craft or technique. I have also job shadowed a few where I learned about their job, how they manage their day, make decisions, and how they interact with others etc.

I have also been a mentor to a few people, mentoring month is in January and each year I create a GCconnex posting to offer a year of mentoring (12 sessions), I see based on applicants the best fit based on what they are looking for and what I can offer, and then a match is made. For the others that applied, I offered them one mentoring session. It is worked great and happy to be able to give back from all I have learned from others over the years.

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Kristen Roth Atlassian Team Oct 31, 2019

I love these tips, @Jodi LeBlanc . A lot of us probably have "secret mentors" and don't even realize! ;) 

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Yes, I completely agree! :)

Like Deepanshu Natani likes this

I've found that all GOOD mentors in my life have shared a common trait. They have naturally pushed me outside my comfort zone. Be it through direct requests, collaboration proposals or inspiration to action, I've always been driven by them to do something new and challenge my own limits.

The other trait that has made these stand out for me has been valuable and timely feedback. If you have read 'Peak' before you'll understand why this is one the true keys to improvement and growth.

After all, we all know what we want to have achieved after an encounter with a good mentor:

  • be better
  • know more
  • be ready to be the mentor


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