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How to spot a great project management mentor

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Those who are already working in project management or are thinking of making a career change to do so are often suited to the role because of the personal attributes they already possess. Thriving on problem solving, loving variety, enjoying collaborative working and possessing a wide set of skills from administration to technical/design or other industry knowledge can take a project manager far; but what will take them further is the guiding hand of a great mentor. Education and training are some of the most obvious ingredients that help make a project manager but the secret ingredient for success is finding a great mentor – and here is my advice on how to do just that.

Spotting a great mentor

A mentor can not only accelerate the development of his or her charge but also gain great satisfaction in doing so; providing a feedback loop that benefits both parties. So, if you are new to a project management role – how do you spot a great project management mentor to be your ally through the ups and downs of this highly varied and challenging role?

They have experience - been there, done that and got the t-shirt

This expression is well known for a reason. When someone has already taken the career path you are just starting out on – it makes perfect sense that they will have more experience than you. However, it is not just experience but wisdom that a great mentor offers, and this includes letting you learn from your own mistakes. A great mentor needs to mentor and not manage nor let their own experiences dictate how you should follow your own individual path. For these reasons a great mentor will listen more than they talk about their own experiences as a project manager because it’s all about you making, living and learning from your own experiences.

They are on-hand

A great mentor will ideally work within the same organisation if you are already employed as a project manager. A great mentor is one who is available to immediately offer different perspectives whilst a problem is still fresh in your mind but also one who keeps their distance when you are confidently managing on your own.

They are cautious with advice

A mentor is usually someone who mentors precisely because of their own experience rather than being professionally trained or qualified. They are on hand to offer advice but will encourage you to move forward to achieve your goals in your own way and through your own efforts. Therefore, they may offer different perspectives for you to help you decide how to do this. No great mentor will tell you exactly what to do because it could be the wrong advice for you; rather they are that guiding hand that can make all the difference to you projects and your project management career.

So, next time you are talking to more experienced people in your organisation consider whether they have these attributes and could be the mentor you are looking for.


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