How to find a mentor and build a successful mentorship

Having a mentor can be a career-changing experience. But how do you find a good mentor and make sure the partnership is successful? Rhonda Vetere, Global C-suite Executive and long-time mentor shares some tips and insights.

By Rhonda Vetere | Global C-suite Executive | Author of Grit & Grind

From the moment we are born, we experience mentorship at its very basic level. As infants, we couldn’t speak, walk, dress ourselves, throw a ball, or sing a song – all of these things were done and taught to us by our parents or caregivers.  The older we got, the more we could accomplish and figure things out for ourselves, until we were fully functioning and independent adults.

But I believe that the need for mentorship doesn’t stop after our transition into adulthood. We need to connect with people who know more than we do and have been through what we go through. No app, course, or podcast can teach us in the same way that person-to-person mentorship can. It’s irreplaceable.

Here is how to choose a good mentor (and be a good mentee) in order to create a beneficial and nurturing mentoring relationship.

Choosing a good mentor

Choosing a mentor is a decision that should be considered carefully. How can you make sure that you’re selecting the right person?

1. Choose someone you can trust

You’re about to invite someone to shape parts of your life. Make sure it’s someone who will be discreet and will guard the information you share with them. By definition, mentors help you figure out the places you’re vulnerable and insecure, so you also have to trust that they will take the relationship seriously and not take advantage of your weak points.

2. Choose someone who fits your mentorship needs

Before you choose a mentor, consider what you want to be mentored in. If you want to become a better public speaker, find someone who speaks a lot and is good at it. If you need advice on parenting, find the best mom or dad you know. The more specific you are on what you want help and guidance with, the better your results will be.

3. Choose someone who’s been where you are

Find someone who has walked the path you’re on. They will understand the pitfalls and challenges you face and be able to empathize with what you’re experiencing.  

4. Choose someone further along than you

This one seems pretty obvious, but I’ve seen all too often what happens when people at the same level advise each other. Without the depth of experience and knowledge that a more seasoned person can bring, a mentorship is simply a friendship. Choosing a mentor who’s further along can provide you with important wisdom and guidance on how you can reach that level yourself.

5. Choose someone willing to challenge you

Mentors do more than just listen and advise. A true mentor also challenges their mentees. They’re not afraid to ask the hard questions, and they don’t hesitate to hold you accountable for your actions. You want a mentor so you can grow, not just be given a pat on the back.

If you chose the right mentor, you’ve just opened up an amazing opportunity to learn from someone in a way that reading a book or listening to a podcast can’t provide. But the mentor can’t pull the weight of the whole relationship on their own.

To get the most out of the mentorship, you as the mentee have a responsibility to engage as well.

Here’s how to be a good mentee

1. Come prepared

Before meeting with your mentor, take some time to prepare. Research the topics you want to discuss. Write down any questions you’d like to go over. Review your notes from your last session and tie up any loose ends or assignments they gave you.

2. Be open

Go into your meetings with an open mind that’s ready to learn. You can choose your attitude and how to approach the appointment. It makes a huge difference if you show up with a positive attitude and put in the work to make the relationship productive. This brings me to my next point.

3. Do the work

Your mentor is not just going to hand you solutions. That’s not their job. They’ll give you guidance and support, but it’s your responsibility to figure things out and work towards the solutions you seek.

Having said that, remember that sometimes mentorships don’t work out due to timing, logistics or personality clash. And if at any point the mentor you’ve chosen makes you feel unsafe, threatened, harassed, or belittled, leave that relationship. Don’t feel guilty about looking elsewhere if a relationship isn’t working out.

One final thought. All of us are going through hard times and try to deal with life’s challenges the best way we can. Having a good mentor is one way to make our lives a bit easier as we go along. But a shift in our mindset is also required.

My personal belief is that if you’re really going to embrace the mess and learn to thrive – not just survive – you have to accept the idea that pressure is a privilege.

The heat and pressure of life does take a toll, and when the ash clears, you may not recognize what’s left – but that’s not a bad thing. Because when something is repeatedly exposed to heat and pressure over time, it becomes something infinitely more brilliant, pure and valuable.

A diamond.




Rhonda Vetere is a seasoned C-Suite technology executive that has worked across industries in global technology. A change agent for digital transformation, she has led the way for growth with more than 23 mergers and acquisitions at companies. Rhonda is a STEM advocate, passionate mentor, and has been named as industry technology Icon leading across 162 countries. You can follow Rhonda on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.