One thing I’ve learned running a formal mentoring program for the past two years is that people have wildly different expectations about mentors and mentorship. Some want a single individual who will be there to guide them from the day they get their first business card to the day they get their proverbial gold watch. Others see a mentor as seasonal, being a part of their experience at a single stop on their career and changed out when they move onto the next. Some swear by the structure found in formal mentoring programs while others bristle at it, insisting that organic relationships are the ones that matter.
Me? I choose “all of the above.” In fact, I choose more than that – I want an entire squad of people whose advice and guidance I can draw upon as I move through my career. You don’t have to be needy or greedy to collect a crew like this. Simply think about the types of people whose insight and input can enrich your personal and professional life.
Here are 10 mentor types I’ve encountered.
1. Role model. Someone you look up to and whose career or character you want to emulate. This is the person you want to be when you grow up. No matter where they are, they inspire you.
2. Relative. This is the work equivalent of parents, grandparents or aunts and uncles, and they might look like a manager or supervisor, a teacher or team leader. This is the person or people who teach you everything you know and “raise” you professionally.
3. Rock. The person – your person – you can always count on and who gives you the solid foundation you need for all things. This is a particularly special one; so when you find it, do not let go.
4. Rock star. The celebrity mentor is a fun bonus. Whether an actual famous person or simply an outsized personality that captures your imagination, the celebrity mentor provides excitement and a corresponding way of looking at the world.
5. Roommate. As a peer or partner, this person who is about at your same level can be an invaluable sounding board and ally.
6. Recruit. Sometimes called a reverse mentor, this person is coming up behind you in her career and brings fresh energy and perspective.
7. Royalty. CEOs and others who’ve reached the pinnacle of their organizations – the royalty in their respective fields – have very specific point of view to share; absorb it if you’re lucky enough to have one of these.
8. Reinvented. This person has changed focus or careers in such a substantial way that how she managed the transition is a fantastic lesson.
9. Rugged. This person might seem harsh or challenge you, but they know that outside of your comfort zone is where growth happens.
10. Random. This person might seem like a mismatch for you, but there is strength in diversity and opposites attract – a great final addition to the squad.
This is the amazing cast of characters I’ve found as mentors. Some come and go, some fill multiple roles, and some evolve between types over the years. All of that just adds to the dynamic. When you find those qualities in a person in your network, stay close, ask questions, and learn. And then say “thank you” every chance you get. By broadening your definition of mentor to include the heroes and cameos and everything in between, you might find you have more mentors to thank than you first thought.