Mentorships are written about quite frequently. Today, we will focus on the 3 “types” of mentors and the concept of FIT. Just like searching for a job, we all will find greater value from investing in this process if we find the proper fit. The same goes for the process of finding a mentor.

This is what you may have heard: Mentors are valuable if the relationship is built from a natural process (born from good chemistry) and tactically allows one to think through scenarios in ways you normally wouldn’t. The common advice is that you shouldn’t look for a mentor based on status (or search for someone “like you”). Rather, it is often stated one should look to pick a mentor that makes you THINK. Let’s explore the 3 “types” of mentors – (Please note: I am sure there are many other types and opinions here).

The “coach”, “friend”, “business angel” who will help you drive your success.…

1. Coach – Probably my favorite. This is someone you work with (or worked with prior) that is typically senior to you and is a kindred spirit in a business sense. This person remains someone you turn to in order to ask vulnerable questions (usually scenario based). Once a formal relationship has been established over many months(i.e. building trust), you will see this mentorship turn more towards an “informal” one. Informal can be defined as a simple text or as much as a quarterly lunch. The process to getting to this “informal” point tends to be less premeditated than the traditional mentor finding path.

2. Friend – Need I say more? Find an intelligent friend to run business scenarios and ideas against. Speak your mind – no filter – speak to the far-fetched business ideas you have and see what happens. Use this as a resource to let your hair down in a safe atmosphere. Since this contact is not a co-worker, or someone you may one day report to, it allows you to test your creative thoughts without being judged or penalized.

3. Business Angel –This is a cross between a coach and friend. This person could possibly be a future business partner or someone who will invest in your startup (financially) years down the road. It’s a relationship based on SMARTS, TRUST, and years of FUN you may have had working with this person in the past. This is not a forced or planned situation typically and often happens naturally.

If finding just 1 mentor isn’t striking your interest, you can also think about having several “go-to” people rather than 1 mentor for a long period of time. I have found this to be a valuable approach.

For example: In my first Startup, I was indirectly “taken under the wing” of a consultant who was very valuable to my early career. He was helpful because he told me what I did well and when I was headed in the wrong direction. It wasn’t formal, but can be put into the category I mentioned above as “Coach”. This relationship still exists today and has evolved.

In a second example: I am fortunate to have a “friend” in business (not the same industry or company as mine), that I bounce ideas off of when we get together at our hockey practices. This is invaluable because we are career peers, but NOT at work – He shares his thoughts and I do as well. It works both for career planning, as well as complex decision making.

Just like the career ladder myth is being exposed, so is the mentor/mentee approach. Mentorship is adapting and changing more now than it ever has before due to the swift changes of employee and leadership roles across all sectors. It is imperative we all stay true to ourselves and find the right mix and “style” that is best for one to continue to grow.

Drop me a note. Let’s hear your story @jamespiacentino on Twitter.

About James J. Piacentino