The 4 Kinds of Mentors to Seek

In nearly every interview I conduct, I’ll ask the research subject to tell me about their mentors. Everyone I talk to has a ready answer, and they are eager to tell me about the first person who believed in them, those who offered inspiration, encouragement and support, as well as those who provided much needed reality-checks and even some tough love.

I have been fortunate to have incredible mentors in my life – each one of them different, and each one of them priceless.

Mentors aren’t one size fits all, nor should they be. While we may naturally gravitate to those who believe in us unconditionally, we need a variety of wisdom to guide on our paths to personal and professional success. I suggest you seek out four types of mentors:

1. The No-BS Mentor

A few weeks ago I presented new content to one of my mentors. I had worked tirelessly on the research, the visuals and the delivery. I went through the new content and ended in an embarrassing ta-daaaa type of pose. He gave me a blank stare. “I don’t get it. What is it about?” I was furious, but I knew he was right – the content needed work.

The No-BS Mentor doesn’t sugar coat and doesn’t spare feelings. This mentor has no tolerance for mediocrity. Exceptional or nothing. This mentor will compel you to rise to the occasion.

2. The Eternal Optimist

The Optimist can inspire you just by reciting an Oprah quote that would otherwise make you roll your eyes. This mentor shares in your celebrations and matches your enthusiasm.

The Eternal Optimist Mentor sugar coats like a donut with extra icing and sprinkles, and spares feelings at all costs. This is the mentor I seek when I begin doubting myself.

3. The Comedian

There is no greater source of creativity than laughter. Too often, we get caught up in the details of our endeavors and forget what it is that we love about our work. The Comedian provides a much-needed reality check on what’s really important, forces you to laugh at yourself, and helps you reconnect with your joy and purpose.

4. The Sage

The Sage offers perspective. The Sage has experienced angst time and time and again, and offers calm wisdom when you feel turmoil. This mentor can help you view obstacles from a different perspective and view your successes through an analytic lens.

Successful people seek out a heterogeneous team of mentors, and are quick (and wise!) to give them credit for helping them reach their goals.