What Is a Mentor and What Traits Should They Possess?

An individual may have many different areas of expertise. These areas may range from work related talent to hobbies in which a person chooses to indulge. Though there are times when one’s talent benefits someone else, they are mainly suited to provide personal satisfaction and gratification. To share knowledge and expertise is dedicated selflessness.

By definition, a mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor. Certainly a mentor must be a master of the craft that he or she has chosen to expound upon. However, there is so much more to the ideal. A mentor must be able to teach another person. The mentor and mentee relationship must fit like pieces to a puzzle.


The first obstacle to overcome in educating someone other than yourself is to learn from the person that you are attempting to teach. Everyone absorbs information differently. A mentor must be able to adapt to each students mechanism of learning. This adaptation must be fluid and seamless. Though that concept is easily said, it isn’t as easily done.

The ability to teach requires abstract thought and intricate problem solving skills. When these skills are applied correctly, they combine to create a very precise atmosphere in which there is nothing more than an exchange between two people. There is no intimidation or self-doubt, only information conveyed from one to another.

Those that teach are not afforded the luxury of being impatient. There are challenges and setbacks. In some instances, the mentor may have to start over numerous times prior to passing on an important message. Having to repeat something is frustrating and taxing. It may be a simple concept that causes both the student and mentor anguish. No matter the degree of complication, a mentor must maintain a calm and steady demeanor. The aforementioned conducive learning atmosphere requires constant maintenance. Frustration expressed by either party causes more work for both.

A mentor MUST be a giving and trustworthy individual. Both time and effort are sacrificed to benefit someone else. Time isn’t something that can be reclaimed. Instead, time is something that only passes, which makes it a precious commodity. The act of giving one’s time to another is an unexplainable degree of generosity.

A form of trust must be established between the expert and trainee. This is generally done throughout the teaching process. There are numerous things that allow for trust to grow. The ability to provide consistent information is the most important contributor as it allows the pupil to develop confidence in the mentor. Once the student feels confident in the information, trust in the mentor begins to mature.

The company I work with used a unique approach to determine who my mentor should be. I was asked to read a book and then to take what is called the StrengthsFinder assessment from Gallup. From there, my strengths were analyzed and I was paired with a mentor that was best suited to my individual strengths. Well, it worked! I had never been given this type of treatment before in my career.

In short, a mentor is a genuine and intelligent individual that gracefully develops trust and respect through the unique ability of altruistically sharing with others. Different mentors work for different people. In order for each of us to reach our full potential, we have to be assigned to a mentor that understands us.

Does this sound like your mentor?

Ashley Casey – Design Professional

Gould Design, Inc.