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How do I choose a mentor?
Published: Wednesday, January 4, 2017 3:02:25 PM

Published by: Jamaica Observer | December 11, 2016

Dear Career Advisor:

Please don’t think me conceited, but my goal is to one day become a world class business leader similar to the CEO of the company for whom I’ve been working for the past two years. I have a strong admiration for several of the top managers in our company and greatly desire to be mentored by one of them. How do I go about approaching and selecting a mentor and what really should I expect? What would I need to do to make it work?




Dear Ramone

Your establishment of a focused career goal is by no means conceit. We instead applaud your drive, assertiveness, and willingness to be coached by an experienced professional. We take it that there is no formal mentorship programme in your company, and recommend that you consider suggesting to your human resource manager the establishment of one.

Let’s now turn our attention to the steps you could take in establishing a mentorship relationship and possible strategies to maintain effectiveness of the relationship.

How to select a mentor?

i. Define your purpose. Clearly define the type of professional mentorship support necessary to achieve your goals (eg, specific skills you need to develop or techniques you wish to learn).

ii. Identify a list of potential mentors. You have already begun this by identifying those you admire in your organisation. Complete this list by ranking them, beginning with your most preferred.

iii. Ask. Beginning with your most preferred potential mentor, share with this person your desire. Affirm the qualities you admire in the individual, and enquire if he/she has both the time and the interest to support you in a mentoring relationship. Respect each response. If your proposal is declined don’t attempt to cajole. Politely thank the individual and move to the next person on your list.

Strategies to maintaining an effective mentoring relationship

i. Establish timelines. Once you have courted a willing mentor, establish timelines for your meetings which do not have to be face to face at all times. Determine the frequency (eg, monthly or bi-monthly), time, and duration.

ii. Be consistent and punctual. Respect your mentor’s time. Resist the temptation to try to eke out additional time beyond what has been agreed.

iii. Follow through with suggested activities. Practise the tips given in each session and be prepared to provide a progress report at the next session.

iv. Be professional. Relate to your mentor, in the mentorship sessions, in a professional manner. Be careful not to interpret friendliness as personal friendship.

v. Show commitment. Try not to lose focus. An effective mentorship relationship requires time and dedication.

vi. Celebrate accomplishments. Inform your mentor of your progress towards skill development (eg how you have utilised suggested techniques to achieve sales targets)

vii. Show appreciation. Always express appreciation, preferably in writing, after each session. Since you are employed, be prepared to assume any incidental cost that may be incurred during your mentorship sessions, eg cost of business lunch, unless your mentor insists otherwise.

viii. Accept challenges. Gracefully accept your mentor’s feedback or criticisms and be willing to embrace new approaches.

ix. Lastly, bear in mind that no two individuals’ experiences will be identical. Don’t attempt to be a replica of your mentor. Learn as much as you can from him/her, but be committed to crafting your own path to success.


Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith is associate vice-president of student affairs at Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Manchester. Submit your questions to her at


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