What Makes A Good Mentor?

Mentors often provide valuable insights and institutional knowledge about an organization to a younger workforce. By working with a mentor, new employees are given new perspectives on organizational issues and are provided the opportunity to grow professionally and learn from their mentors experiences.

What makes a good mentor? At all the places I have worked, the mentor-mentee relationship has been mainly informal. This structure has its benefits, along with some challenges. It’s more of a personal preference than anything. Some people prefer a formal structure, while others, such as myself, would prefer a more organic process of finding your mentor.

There are also countless examples of fantastic mentoring programs in which people opt into a mentorship agreement – these programs are largely successful because those opting in are passionate about taking a mentee, and those seeking a mentor are equally as motivated. We have had enormous success with our mentorship program here at GovLoop.

Whether you are opting in or in an informal mentor relationship, here are the qualities that I look for in a mentor:

– Provide Constructive Feedback (positive & negative)
– Supportive of my projects/work
– Makes Time for Me
– Pays close attention to my professional development
– Creates new opportunities in career
– Allows me to make connections/build network professionally
– Knows my strengths and weaknesses, sets me up for success
– Leads by example
– High level knowledge on organization and field they work in
– Connect on a personal level

Developing a mentor-mentee relationship has many benefits. By becoming a mentor, you help employees advance their career and allow them to tap into your institutional knowledge, as a mentee you are given a unique chance to learn from experiences and incorporate them into your own professional development.

Have you ever been a mentor? What are some lessons learned from mentor programs you have participated in?

This post is brought to you by the GovLoop Careers Council. The mission of this council is to provide you with information and resources to help improve government. Visit the GovLoop Careers Council to learn more.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

John Sim

I think a good federal-sector mentor should also help a mentee understand and appreciate the importance and privilege of being a public servant. Perhaps the best way to do this would be for the mentor to him/herself be a model public servant.

A FedNewsRadio article today noted that only 2.3% of college student plan to work for the federal government (link below). I’m not sure if this is a higher or lower percentage than years past, but I think federal-sector mentors can play an important role in showing current and future federal employees that there is a great responsibility involved with jobs in federal government.


I like John’s point as well – I think a good mentor helps you develop insight into your industry (in this case government and how it works) – shows you the ropes and importance and privilege of being public servant

Steve Cottle

It’s so tactical, but #3 (makes time) is critical. You can have the best of intentions and a wealth of wisdom to share, but if you don’t make time for your mentee, it can feel like you don’t think their development is important, make approaching you more difficult, and make it harder to seem like you are paying attention to mentee’s development (#4), lead by example (#8), and connect on a personal level (#10.

Joe Williams

This is my list of characteristics I value in a mentor, having served as both a formal mentor and protégé.

Compelling. My ideal mentor has an interesting life story. This helps to keep the momentum going and for successful engagement in the mentoring partnership.

Communicative. Communication is a two-way street. My ideal mentor is one who is flexible to communicate in multiple ways – in person, over the phone, through email, whatever.

Credibility. My ideal mentor provides guidance based on his/her own experience and knowledge, and has the demonstrated track record of mastery to go with it. For me, the latter is critical.

Comfort. Mentoring does require an open mind and a willingness to receive critical feedback as well as attempt actions outside one’s normal comfort zone. My ideal mentor is one I find instant comfort with, and vice versa.

Jo Youngblood

I look for a mentor that has accomplished some of my long range goals (things I hope to accomplish in 15-20 years). I also look for a mentor that has a healthy work/personal life balance because my family is very important to me and I’m unwilling to compromise them along the way. I also look for a mentor that believes road blocks are a learning opportunity to doing something outside of the box.