What to Look for in a Mentor

Updated on October 16, 2017
Colin Wattonville profile image

Colin Wattonville is a business student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, with a background in marketing, entrepreneurship, & finance.

Quote on mentorship
Quote on mentorship | Source

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”

This quote from late American politician John Crosby perfectly sums up what a mentor is. A mentor is not only there to answer questions. A mentor is one who engages in brainstorming and planning with his mentee, and then motivates and encourages him/her along the way to their future goal. A mentor is always there for the one(s) who he is training, in every way.

In my independent studies outside of school, I have read many books and watched hours of videos on what makes successful people great. One of the things that I always come across is that the most successful people in the world all attribute much of their fortune to their mentor(s). Many people have heard the adage: “You are the culmination of the five people with whom you spend the most time with” (or some similar wording). I definitely find this to be true. That is why I have made an effort to branch out, make more connections, and get involved with those who I know can help me advance in both my personal and professional life. Of course, a mentorship should never be one sided, but rather each person helping the other one out.

All of my mentors throughout my life have shared something with me. Some have shared the same values, some, similar manners, and still others have shared the same drive that I have. Overall, I look for four main things in mentors. The first is that they have to be years ahead of where I am. Their current situation has to look similar to the future that I aspire to have. Maybe not my end goal, but at least a decade or two down the road. Second, my mentor has to be much more knowledgeable than I am in the area that they are helping me with. This may sound like a given, which it is, however, I don’t just mean the mentor needs to have taken a couple more classes or have read some more books on the topic. I mean that my mentor must have lived out the practice for many years and have ample experience to back up his wisdom. I want a mentor who has faced difficulties and situations head-on, so that if I ever come across the same situation, she can tell me exactly how she overcame the hurdle. Next, my mentor needs to be somewhat similar to myself in regards to personality. This is more of a bonus requirement and not completely necessary. However, I have simply found that the more comfortable you are around your mentor and the more they understand how you think and work, the easier it is for you to both help each other, which ties into my fourth requirement. The last thing that I look for in a mentor is that I have to be able to help them out as well. I am very aware that everyone is busy and that time is the most valuable resource that we have, so, with a mentorship, I need to be of some value to my mentor too.

Lending A Helping Hand
Lending A Helping Hand | Source

I always find myself looking for more mentors; however, I have been blessed to have already had more than a handful throughout my short time in the working world. I have met all of my mentors for real estate from some sort of connection through my school (for which, I am extremely grateful). The first one was a speaker for my very first real estate course in college—Principles and Practices. Our professor had a local real estate investor come as a guest speaker in one of the last classes of the semester. Afterwards, I got the speaker’s contact information and followed up with him. About a month later, I found myself working with this mentor on his most recent purchase—a strip mall in a suburb of the city. He helped me by answering any sort of question that I had, both about working for another company, as well as those pertaining to what it was like working for himself, since he had experienced both throughout his career. This particular gentleman helped me understand the commercial side of real estate much more so than my first class had. Under his guide, I saw what commercial leases were comprised of. After this, I was tasked with creating lease abstractions for my mentor, and then a rent roll for this newly acquired property. I was able to be of real help to someone in my local real estate community; I was helping him do work that he didn’t have time for, while learning a lot at the same time. On top of this, I had also connected him with an entrepreneurial organization that I was a member of so that he could be a guest speaker for them; something that he had mentioned he would like to do more of. This connection was a mutually beneficial relationship, which is how all mentorships should be.

My next mentor in real estate came from an organization that I am involved in—Rho Epsilon, a real estate fraternity. We had a guest speaker come and present during one of our meetings. Afterwards, I went up and spoke to the gentleman and set up a time to meet with him one-on-one so that I could pick his brain more. I met up with this mentor at a coffee shop not too long after, and had gotten basically a free lesson and consultation in real estate investing and different ways in which I could invest my money. This mentor gave me a step-by-step process on how to get started in real estate investing, which is what I plan to do long-term. This mentorship was fairly one-sided unfortunately. I had asked my mentor if there was anything that he needed help with in his business, to which he had replied, “No.” I ended up leaving with an offer on the table: that if I ever needed any help or consulting down the road, I would reach out to him and use his service; I also told him that I would refer anyone else who I knew to him.

I work for my two current mentors in the real estate field. One is the president; the other is a manager for the same property management and development company. The two of them actually approached me at a real estate scholarship banquet and we instantly hit it off. They had informed me that they were currently looking for an intern since they were expanding so rapidly. I went in to interview for the position and now find myself helping them out about 20 hours each week. My responsibilities include some property management duties, as well as market research. Before my position with the company, I was only vaguely familiar with these areas. Now, I am working with tenants, answering phones, reviewing different parcels of land, and even analyzing comparables. I can honestly say that I am learning more valuable information at this internship than I have at any other job I had ever had. At the same time, I am also relieving a ton of stress from not only them, but also everyone else in the small company. The work that I am doing is work that was supposed to be done a while ago, but just keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the totem pole because of how quickly that company is acquiring and building more properties.

Characteristics of a Mentorship
Characteristics of a Mentorship | Source

Of course I also have had past mentors who have helped me grow outside of the real estate community. These mentors have been all throughout my life. From coaches, to family members, to business owners, even to motivational speakers I have followed online, each of these individuals have shaped my character, personality, and my unyielding hunger to achieve greatness.

These mentors have all taught me how to handle real-world problems in my area of study. Examples that one experiences first-hand goes beyond what any teacher in a classroom can teach you. All of these mentors have allowed me to share with them my current situation and my future goals; they have been an ear to listen. All of these mentors have let me pick their brains by welcoming any and all questions that came to my mind; they have been a brain to pick. All of these mentors have challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone and learn new practices that will help and advance me along the way to my future self; they have all given me a push in the right direction.

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© 2017 Colin Wattonville

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