Finding the perfect mentor

mentor image

Finding the perfect mentor

In our latest Twitter poll*, we wanted to find out what you look for in a mentor. The results are in, and you’ve placed ‘inspirational’ and ‘honest’ as two of the most important qualities.
Read below for more on the results, as well as what Claire (Nationwide’s Head of Business Management) finds most inspiring about her mentor Rowena.

What makes a good mentor?

This can be a tricky question to answer, as what’s right for one person may not be right for the next- and what you look for in a mentor is likely to alter at different stages in your career.
At 42%, the majority of our voters placed ‘inspirational’ as the most important quality they looked for in a mentor, which may be particularly true for women throughout their careers: entrepreneurs like Janneke Niessen, founder of ‘Inspiring Fifty’, attribute being able to identify inspiring role models as key to changing perceptions- particularly in business areas which are typically male environments.

After Inspirational and honest, 18% of voters felt that being ‘a good listener’ was the most important quality in a mentor: “Rowena has a fantastic ability to listen, ask acute questions and provide thought provoking insight, whilst at the same time leaving no doubt that the accountability and ownership of your personal development sits firmly with you. She is first rate at coaching as she doesn’t provide the answers, but draws things out of you that you didn’t even know were there.”

What could you gain from having a mentor?

If you have a good line manager and already know what you want from a career, then why would you need a mentor as well? 

This is slightly easier to answer, as your relationship with your mentor should offer you a more holistic view of how you approach tasks; this is because your mentor will usually work outside of your day to day role, making it easier for them to provide an objective take on how you approach challenges. For 33% of those who voted this level of ‘honesty’ was the most important characteristic in a mentor.

While your mentor shouldn’t be there to contradict manager, they can help you to revisit certain scenarios, and in turn guide you to re-evaluate your own behaviour in an impartial way; “Generally speaking, I think you can be more open and exploratory with a mentor than a line manager and it’s healthy to separate the relationships. Rowena actually became my mentor following a recommendation from my line manager, who felt that she would be a good fit for me in terms of style and experiences, whilst also being able to provide a female perspective,” explains Claire. “Although Rowena’s only been my mentor for a few months, she has already made a huge impact in terms of challenging my perspective and helping me to think more deeply about my experiences, behaviours and interactions as a senior leader within the organisation.”

Choose your mentor carefully

If you’ve decided you want a mentor, it’s worth asking them about how their own career paths and experiences have helped shape their point of view. Our poll showed 7% of those who voted looked for ‘wisdom’ in a mentor.

For Claire, this meant choosing a female mentor for the first time: “I’ve been fortunate to have had some fantastic mentors over the years, but Rowena is my first female mentor. I have found it to be a different experience, not just because Rowena is a different person with unique experiences, but because there are specific areas I can explore which Rowena can personally relate to. I don’t like to generalise, but from my own experience of mentoring others, women can at times lack confidence and experience self-doubt, waiting until they have fully proven capability before they throw their hat into the ring for an opportunity, as opposed to just taking a leap. In some cases, this might be appropriate, but in others it can be a waste and hold people back from realising their potential. ”

Becoming a mentor

If you’ve had mentors throughout your career, you may eventually decide to take your own learnings to help others and become a mentor yourself: “I started my career at Nationwide in 2001 and have been extremely fortunate to have had some excellent mentors who have supported me during this time. Being able to pass this on and support others in a similar way is hugely rewarding, and I often learn from these interactions myself, too.” explains Claire.  “To get maximum value from a mentoring relationship, honesty is key – if you can be completely honest with yourself and your mentor, you’re more likely to reap the rewards mentoring can bring.”

Find out more

For more on female mentors at Nationwide, read Rowena's story.

*Twitter poll from 18th July 2016 - 25th July 2016, via @nbs_careers. Total number of votes 152.