What qualities make a good mentor?

ACS members discuss the qualities of a good mentor and the benefits of this relationship in your career
Industry Matters Newsletter
Katherine Johnson,  R&D Associate, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Katherine Johnson, R&D Associate, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

"... Effective mentors support mentees..."

An effective mentor is an approachable, active listener who provides objectivity and clarity, maintains a diverse network, and tackles challenging problems with an ethical compass. Mentors are skilled listeners who seek to understand and support a mentee's concerns, desires, and needs in a safe space. Providing constructive feedback that tactfully excludes their personal biases is also a significant characteristic of effective mentoring. Mentors who are effective at building and maintaining their networks are also more likely to provide mentees with tailored connections to other mentors while exemplifying how to maintain healthy professional relationships.

Finally, effective mentors support mentees in challenging circumstances using ethical best practices garnered with experience. Although this is not an inclusive list, mentors willing to self-reflect and accept feedback will ultimately become a nimble resource for mentees seeking effective mentorship.

Norton Peet, ACS Career Consultant
Norton Peet, ACS Career Consultant

"An effective mentor... is seen as a good role model in every way."

What are the qualities of an effective mentor? An effective mentor must make himself available to allow the possibility of the informal relationship of a mentor/mentoree to develop. The effective mentor will ideally be someone knowledgeable in his field of expertise and willing to guide the next generation of men and women who will comprise our future workforce. He is seen as a good role model in every way. He has a perspective on achieving success in a career and is willing to assist a deserving student to follow a similar pathway to success.

The mentor needs to be willing to unselfishly invest his time and effort in the mentoree to guide him in the right direction, help him to make correct career and life decisions, and, importantly, be willing to be a character reference for the mentoree when he makes applications to advanced degree educational institutions and ultimately to prospective employers.

Effective mentors will see the value and importance of gifting hard-earned experience and wisdom from their careers to a few carefully chosen individuals who will benefit from midcourse corrections in their lives and careers and consider these relationships a necessary responsibility for establishing their own legacies.   

Fran Kravitz, ACS Career Consultant
Fran Kravitz, ACS Career Consultant

“The relationship will likely continue throughout their professional lives.”

An effective mentor is someone willing to listen and give positive and truthful feedback, which leads the mentee to learn how to find the answer or career path that is fulfilling for that individual. The mentor will become the mentee’s advisor and friend for life once these qualities are met. The relationship will likely continue throughout their professional lives.

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

ACS Career Consultants are experts and leaders working in the field of chemistry who have volunteered to support other ACS members’ career development through one-on-one career counselling. They can stimulate your thinking, ask important career planning questions to help clarify goals, provide encouragement, teach strategies for making meaningful career decisions, and aid you in your job search. Connect with an ACS Career Consultant today!

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