Informal Mentors: Friends You Never Knew You Had!
Growing up, we depend on mentors to teach us life skills and prepare us to stand on our own two feet.  It starts with our parents, maybe an older sibling, grandparents, and then teachers.  All of us can remember the most important lessons they taught us… where they succeeded, and where they made mistakes. 

My father taught me to go the extra mile and that nothing comes free.  My mother taught good manners, and to care for the people around me.  My sister taught me how to succeed academically and get into good schools. 

Now at 26, it is sometimes easy to be arrogant – “I don’t need help” and “I know what I’m doing” are thoughts that cross my mind all too often.    

No doubt, you have expertise and you are probably someone others look up to.  However, no one ever stops developing, and you can always learn something from somebody.   As you continue in your career, start looking for informal mentors who can help you grow.  

Here are five characteristics of a great mentor.

1. They possess skills you aspire to obtain
A mentor does not have to be someone in your place of work, and does not have to be older or senior to you.  Often, a great mentor has a skill they are willing to teach you; such as writing, networking, public speaking, etc.  If you identify someone who is great at a skill you would like to develop, ask him or her to teach you. 

2. They are respected
A good mentor has to be someone people look up to, not just as a worker, but also as a person.  Being good at your job is important, but that can be undermined by the personality of the individual.  Ensure that people respect your new mentor. 

3. They take time out of their day to help others
Do not invest your time in someone who does not reciprocate.  Not everyone is helpful because of the demands their time or lack of enthusiasm.   Find a mentor who is willing to invest in you and roots for you to succeed.

4. They don’t sugar-coat 
There are few people more valuable in your life than those who tell you what you do not want to hear.  A great mentor is someone who is willing to tell you what you do wrong and work with you to fix it.

5. They understand confidentiality 
A mentor is someone you should be able to confide in.   Do not choose a mentor who gossips, or is in a position where they have to report certain details. For example, if you are facing a cross roads in your career, a mentor outside of your current place of work could be helpful to give you honest and confidential advice. 

Finally, no matter how far you are in your career, you can learn from someone.  Look for great mentors in your career and be humble enough to seek their guidance.