For someone just starting out in mortgage finance – or in any industry for that matter – a mentor can guide you in many valuable ways. From the basics of time management to the specifics of writing loans, it’s a relationship you’ll be thankful for when you are a successful mortgage lender. But not every professional makes a great mentor, so consider the following traits as you search for your mortgage banking sensei.
More Than a Job
The most important trait of a good mentor is not that they are the best at their job or at the top of their career. It’s simply this: they LOVE what they do. This isn’t to say they would describe every day as a proverbial picnic, but that the professionals who make the best mentors are the ones who are passionate about their careers and genuinely want to pass that passion on to others. Think about it – if you are being coached by someone who loves the game, you’re likely to be a much better player.
Those who are passionate about their chosen careers are also more likely to make the time commitment necessary to be an effective mentor. And make no mistake; it’s a relationship that takes time. Meetings over coffee, touch-bases throughout the month and regular check-ins are essential to building rapport and setting the foundation for the substantive sharing that is key to a mentor/mentee relationship.
Yes, this really is a relationship. And, relationships take thoughtful work and concerted effort. Although your hope is to enjoy your mentor’s company, having your best friend as your mentor is likely not the ideal arrangement. As you consider starting your search for a mentor, make a list of those professionals you have seen act in a manner that feels authentic to you. If a sense of humor is important and makes learning easier for you, consider that an important trait. If polished presentation skills are something you admire, put that at the top of your must-have traits in a mentor.
Easy-going and go-with-the-flow? Or, more buttoned-up and Johnny-on-the-spot? Start paying attention to how leaders within your organization conduct themselves to see who has a vibe that will jibe with yours. Use LinkedIn as a personality litmus test as well! Connect with leaders and professionals further along in their career than you are. Pay attention to what they post and comment on to see if it aligns with your work ethic and outlook.
A Good Set of Working Ears
A mentor/mentee relationship is a professional partnership built on mutual respect and a willingness to be open and even vulnerable. That kind of trust requires a mentor with excellent listening skills. You’ll often hear this referred to as “active listening,” a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, the complete message being communicated.
A good listener – and a good mentor – is fully present in your coaching sessions or general conversation. One mistake most people make when listening is figuring out how they are going to respond when there is a break in the chat. If you are thinking through your own response, you are not actively listening to your partner. The Center for Creative Leadership describes the six skills of active listening, and they certainly align with six important skills of a good mentor:
- Paying attention
- Withholding judgment
Casting Your Net(work)
One of the most valuable assets a good mentor offers is access to their network. This is not something that will happen early in a mentor/mentee relationship, but it will come with time. As your mentor sees that you are eager to grow, they’ll be more apt to begin introducing you to their professional circle. And this is where business is done, deals are made and careers are launched. Finding a mentor who is connected within the industry is not the only requirement of a good mentor – and it’s not even the most important – but it is one to consider when building rapport. Being able to mine your mentor’s resources will be a valuable exercise and puts you one step closer to becoming the successful professional you are working to be.
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