Strategies that Guide the Mentor Selection Process

By Debi Ayliffe

A strong mentoring relationship can benefit an individual’s professional life in a variety of ways, including more rapid career advancement, higher salaries, and more career satisfaction. There are also a number of personal benefits, such as improved physical health and self-esteem (Johnson et al., 2020). Exploring what makes a mentoring relationship “strong” or successful aids the career practitioner in supporting the working client’s career journey.

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Author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek states, “A mentor is not someone who walks ahead of us and tells us how they did it. A mentor is someone who walks alongside us to guide us on what we can do” (Sinek, 2021). A successful mentoring relationship is based on mutual trust, respect, and an interest in self-improvement and continued learning (Hosmer, 2022). Selecting a mentor requires purposeful strategizing, including assessing and prioritizing the worker’s needs and values.

While there are several ways to approach selecting a suitable mentor, the selection process can be enhanced with the following steps.

Determine Clients Needs

To help a client find a mentor, career practitioners can guide the client in assessing where they currently are in their career and what they hope to gain from the mentorship. This includes identifying the goals they wish to achieve and the concerns they need to address. Career practitioners may ask questions to determine:

What characteristics is the client looking for in a mentor? For example, do they want their mentor to be:

What type of skills development and growth opportunities are they seeking? These may include:

Because every client will have a different path or journey, it is helpful to encourage the client to add to these lists or create their own. Once a client determines what they need from a mentor, the search can begin.

Choose Multiple Mentors

Once the client determines and prioritizes their needs, the next step is selecting a mentor, or mentors. Ideally, clients should have more than one mentor. Having multiple mentors allows for different perspectives and points of view, different areas of strengths and guidance, and flexibility (Westring, 2021).

When possible, the client should choose a mentor tailored to each area of professional growth they wish to improve. The choice of mentor should not be decided by the candidate’s title or position, but rather their current skill set and their availability to provide the client with additional coaching or training desired for their career growth.

Guide the client in narrowing down their choice to two potential mentoring candidates.

Ideally, the client should use their networking community to connect with a potential mentor, instead of sending an unsolicited email. They can ask a mutual friend or colleague to set up an introduction to a potential mentor, which can increase the chances of acceptance.  If there is no connection available, the client can contact to the potential mentor with an introduction of who they are and why they are seeking this person for a mentoring relationship.  

Make the Ask

Before the client asks someone to be their mentor, the client should consider the following questions:

When approaching a mentor candidate, the client can explain why they selected that individual, what their expectation of the mentorship will be, and how their career would benefit from this relationship. The request should also include some specific information, including a clear direction of the skills the mentee wishes to obtain, how often they wish to meet, and an estimate of the time parameters expected for meetings.

The introduction could sound something like this:

“Over the past three years, I have been working toward becoming a Career Development Specialist with a background in Human Resources. Helping guide individuals to life-long career goals and uncovering their highest potential is the core of what I do. I see you have an extensive background in Human Resources with numerous years of experience. I would be grateful if you had about an hour a month to meet with me and share your expertise in this area for my growth. Would that be something you would be interested in?"

Make Mentoring Intentional  

After establishing a mentorship, the career practitioner will want to help the client to optimize their meetings with their mentors by suggesting the following:


Mentoring can be a satisfying, impactful, and valuable relationship for clients, regardless of their job title, education level, or professional experience. With the help of a career practitioner to aid planning and strategy, clients can have a mentoring relationship leading to self-improvement and continued learning.



Birt, J. (2022, September 30). 24 Reasons why mentorship is important for mentee and mentor.     Indeed. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/why-is-a-mentor-important 

Hosmer, D. (2022, December 1). Matching, Trust, and Symbiosis for High Quality Mentoring. Career Convergence. https://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/476828/_self/CC_layout_details/false

Johnson, W. B., Smith, D. G., & Haythornthwaite, J. (2020, July 17). Why your mentorship program isn't working. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/07/why-your-mentorship-program-isnt-working

Sinek, S. [@simonsinek]. (2021, February 5). A mentor is not someone who walks ahead of us to show us how they did it. A mentor walks [Tweet].  Twitter. https://twitter.com/simonsinek/status/1357700008326348800?lang=en

Westring, A. F. (2021, June 22). Why you need multiple mentors. Harvard Business Review.       https://hbr.org/2021/06/why-you-need-multiple-mentors



Debi AyliffeDebi Ayliffe, CCSP, is a Career Development Specialist for Pen Air Credit Union and in the financial industry for over 13 years. Debi’s experience as a Career Development Specialist, has granted her the opportunities to coach, lead, and develop many employees. Debi is a Certified Career Services Provider and holds certifications in several different DiSC style programs. Debi won top Volunteer of the Year for the Escambia District School in 2021 and is a member of several committees. Debi can be reached at debi.ayliffe@penair.org



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Joana Joe Daou   on Wednesday 05/31/2023 at 12:48 PM

I have served as a Teacher Mentor for a few teachers this school year for those who were hired to work in our school for the first time. I must say this article is very well written and outlines exactly what a Mentor/Mentee relationship should look like. It is important to empower others who need the support because when their confidence is up, then the students and other teachers that that person is working with them are also positively impacted. My school has a Mentor/Mentee program implemented for new teachers who need the support and I think it is wonderful that we brought this program back because it truly does help people who are still learning the protocols and processes.

Nancy Perez   on Saturday 06/03/2023 at 09:30 PM

Having been both a mentor and a mentee, this article touches on very important key points that are needed in this form of relationship. As a mentor I have always found it useful when both my mentee and myself are learning together. With my students I would want to refrain from leaving them behind just because I have been through a process before. If we are too far ahead we are not doing any good to both them and us. They may get stuck or lost and be afraid to let us know, which then causes them to struggle. Hopefully with being able to use this form of mentor/mentee relationship, my students can continue mentoring others in a positive helpful way.

Christopher J. Needham   on Sunday 06/04/2023 at 07:26 PM

As someone who has never really had a mentor in my professional life, I feel they could be extremely helpful. It is always good to know somebody who has experienced something before you. Starting a new job of any kind can be so overwhelming and any advice or guidance a mentor could provide would make it much less difficult. I like the quote in the article that states that, "a mentor should walk alongside us and guide us on what we can do." Everyone is different and we all experience things differently. To have someone with us along the way to help us deal with issues and challenges would be great. I hope to do that for my students when I become a school counselor.

Anderson Nance   on Monday 06/05/2023 at 09:51 AM

This article resonated with me on a personal level because of how I came to cross paths with my own mentor. The selection process really can determine the path your future career takes. I honestly got lucky and my 1st mentor fell threw, then i was paired with the man who would should me how to be proactive and diligent in advocating for my students within our underachieving school district. With the right mentor you can be great and the selection process really has to be a good fit and a beneficial arrangement for both parties. This article highlights a very good step by step process when helping your clients select a mentor. this is an important step that needs to be held to the utmost standards. I've seen what happens when a mentorship goes bad, sours or isn't a good fit and that is time and energy wasted or even worse.

Jillian Esposito   on Monday 06/05/2023 at 04:43 PM

This article did a wonderful job detailing what makes a strong and effective mentor relationship. I can utilize this information in my future school counseling career by encouraging high school students to seek mentorship. High school students could do this when trying to determine what career they want to pursue after graduation. The students could even seek 2-3 mentors of different occupations if confused on which path to take. As for myself, I had a wonderful mentor who encouraged and supported me during my first year of teaching.

Nicole Krause   on Monday 06/05/2023 at 07:16 PM

As someone who has never had a mentor before, I have learned so much about how to effectively seek out and approach a professional to be my future mentor. I think that having this type of relationship can greatly benefit both the mentor and the person being mentored. What surprised me about the article was the benefits of having a strong mentoring relationship. Receiving rapid career advancement, higher salaries, and greater career satisfaction are highly motivating factors that push myself to seek out individuals would may be interested in being my mentor. I will apply this new found information to my future students by teaching them the benefits of having a mentor can be on your career satisfaction and overall personal satisfaction.

Kayla Wunder   on Monday 06/05/2023 at 10:07 PM

Characteristics to look for in mentors are kind, direct, financially savvy, supportive, and inspiring. Special skills to look for include public speaking, leadership, communication, etc. While choosing a mentor, the perfect fit must be search for. There are multiple factors that come into play while searching for the right choice. Networking is a platform used to help connect with the potential mentor. The questions to ask oneself while in the process of the search are critical. The selection process helps create a sense of trust and understanding of how serious this person may be. During this process continuous learning and self-improvement can be the outcome of have a mentoring relationship.

CHRISTINE GRIFFIN   on Tuesday 06/06/2023 at 08:50 AM

I have had mentors and have also been a mentor in various capacities. I agree that it is important to have an intentionality in your actions when selecting a mentor and also being a mentor. Time must be well spent to reap the most benefits, I think it is very important to have a systematic plan in creating a menu of what you hope to accomplish by having a meaningful mentor relationship. In counseling high school and college students, I agree that there should be some research done by the student to determine how a mentor in a specific area could be beneficial, and how they will also provide value to the mentor because they will benefit from their wisdom and guidance that is priceless.

Debi Ayliffe   on Tuesday 06/06/2023 at 11:55 AM

Wow, it's great to see so many responses. Usually, feedback is given when something negative needs to be expressed or stated, and most people don't spend the time to provide uplifting and positive responses. So, I greatly appreciate that each of you has taken the time to leave your comments. I truly hope this article has helped guide you in supporting clients in the selection process and helped you choose your own mentor.

Joana- I would love to see more organizations implement a Mentor/Mentee program and lean on the knowledge of experienced and trained individuals to help those learning or new to the organization.
Nancy- It's great that you have been able to experience both sides. It allows you to use your experience to help others. I also couldn't agree more; learning together is exactly what a beneficial mentorship should be. My motto is "Meet them where they are to get them where they want to be!"
Christopher- Simon Sinek is such an influential writer and leader for me. If you aren't familiar with him, I highly recommend checking him out. His quote has inspired me to approach Career Development from the same mentality. Meet the client where they are, walk alongside them, and help them achieve the goals they have set for themselves. You mentioned you have never had a mentor in your professional life, has this inspired you to find someone that will walk alongside you?
Anderson- Having experienced both a good mentorship and one that wasn't such a great fit will give you the knowledge to help encourage others to follow some of these tips when they are in the selection process.
Jillian- I love the idea of getting them started young! High School students have a lot of decisions to make that will impact their lively hood, and strategically selecting a mentor who will guide them through this process could make the biggest impact on their future.
Nicole- You mentioned applying this to your students. Will you also apply this to your professional and personal growth to find your first mentor?
Kayla- I love that you have defined what needs you are looking for in a mentor! It's great to know your specific needs during the selection process. We will all have varying expectations of what our mentor will provide us through this experience, whether specific characteristics, skills, knowledge, availability, etc. Knowing what you expect from the beginning will help you know if the fit will be impactful for both the mentee and the mentor.
Christine- I love the phrase "Intentionality in your actions!" This is extremely important in this process and throughout the mentorship.

Pucci Angell   on Tuesday 06/06/2023 at 10:03 PM

I like how this article talks about both parties benefitting from the mentoring relationship. This shows how it is more of a collaborative effort and not just do what I say because I say so. I also like how unique it is choosing the right mentor for you. Everyone has different weaknesses and strengths, as well as different learning and leadership skills.

Evan A. Cornell   on Wednesday 06/07/2023 at 10:32 AM

The idea of multiple mentors is definitely one I agree with. Each mentor provides a different perspective, and they can individually help with different things.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.