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9 Mentor Traits To Look For and Why They Matter

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9 Mentor Traits To Look For and Why They Matter


Finding someone with the perfect combination of mentor traits is no simple task.

A good mentor is inspiring, yet accessible. They have the time to listen and also have their own successful career. They’re empathetic and give honest feedback.

With so many qualities to consider, it’s no wonder people feel overwhelmed when looking for a mentor.

The thing is, not all mentors have the same impact. Think about the ones you’ve had in your life so far. Some may have been amazing (lucky, you!) while others may have been more concerned about their problems and egos.

Finding a good mentor is important for building a successful career. Mentors can share which skills you need to get promoted, give tips for managing workplace relationships, and introduce you to their expansive network. The benefits are endless.

Now, you need to find someone who fits the bill. You may even be working to become a mentor yourself. Either way, we’ll walk through what a mentor is and which traits to look for so you recognize a great mentor when they cross your path.

What is a mentor?

A mentor is a trusted advisor who provides you with the tools, guidance, and feedback you need to succeed in your career. Almost anyone can be a mentor – a peer, a manager, a friend, a boss, a school alumnus, or a family member.

But a mentor isn’t an influencer or someone you only follow online. They need to be connected to your life and consistent enough to advise you over a period of time. That said, a mentorship relationship can last for years or a short period of time.

The longer you know a mentor, the more they get to know your learning style, personality, and long-term goals. This lets them share advice that’s more relevant to you and full of context. On the other hand, short mentor-mentee relationships are great for handling specific situations or challenges. For example, you may meet a mentor through an informational interview while job hunting. If all goes well, they might offer you a referral or connect you to the hiring manager.

Both short and long-term mentorships can help you grow and expand your network. Chances are, you’ll have both types of mentors throughout your career. As you look for your go-to people for career guidance, keep these top nine mentor traits in mind.

9 Qualities of a Good Mentor

1. Identifies Your Needs and Strengths

Everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses. A good mentor understands this and works to learn what makes their mentee tick.

While you likely have an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, it’s helpful to hear what someone else thinks. For example, I consider myself a strong communicator. But a few years back, one of my mentors recommended that I incorporate more empathy into my feedback.

My direct style wasn’t always the best approach. So before sending feedback, I’d ask my mentor to look over my points and make recommendations. In time, I learned how to share feedback that was more considerate, clear, and empathetic.

A great mentor knows how to build your weaknesses and expand your strengths so you fill in important skill gaps.

2. Shares Room for Improvement

It’s tough to give honest feedback. It requires incredible communication skills and a level of openness that not many people are comfortable spending time in.

That’s why a mentor who “finds ways for you to grow in areas inside and outside the workplace” is irreplaceable, said Ashlie Benson, Chief of Staff for Agricycle Global. This trait is what differentiates a mentor from a cheerleader.

A mentor knows your career progression, your desired path, and your strengths and weaknesses. They can see the gaps that need to be filled to achieve your goals. A cheerleader, on the other hand, is only there to offer encouragement.

While a mentor can be a cheerleader at times, their role is to make you better – not just make you feel better.

3. Gains Your Trust and Respect

A mentor is someone you can look up to. You respect them for their work, their ethos, and their unique personality.

You also may share information with them that you don’t share with anyone else, which is why they have to be trustworthy. For any mentor-mentee relationship to last – and be beneficial for both sides – you need to be able to have difficult conversations. This can include talking through issues that arise at work (such as salary negotiations, promotions, difficulties with a colleague or manager, quitting a job, or getting let go).

Trusting someone enough to share challenges takes time. So look for a mentor who respects this time and doesn’t push you to spill personal information right from the start. The goal is to build a relationship that’s open, respectful, and professional.

4. Expresses Empathy

Empathy is important for every working relationship, but it’s an essential quality for mentorship.

Mentors with high levels of emotional intelligence listen to and empathize with you. They understand that you’re human and make mistakes. And they make you feel comfortable talking about both the good and the bad things happening in your life.

That’s why it’s best to look for a mentor who understands that life happens, people get sick, and priorities change. They should be willing to show their humanity and offer guidance in a way that resonates with you as a person.

5. Has Relevant Knowledge and Skills

Of all the traits to look for in a mentor, this one usually matters most.

Mentors with relevant knowledge and skills have been in a similar position as you, so they can offer role or industry-specific advice as you navigate your career and achieve your goals.

I looked for a mentor with this specific quality when I started my own company. I didn’t have much experience negotiating contracts, managing budgets, or handling unpaid invoices. I needed guidance beyond Google.

Fortunately, I found Austin Adesso, who had been successfully running his creative agency Partners in Post for several years. His advice helped me learn to negotiate longer contracts and charge a competitive price for my work.

Find a mentor with the skills and experience you’d like to have, and rely on them for knowledge. Just remember that your journey is unique, so do what feels right for you when considering the tips they offer.

6. Listens and Reflects

It’s easy to hand out advice. But it takes skill to know whether or not that advice is great for the person you give it to.

Great mentors understand the importance of active listening and intentional guidance. They ask questions to figure out every angle of a situation before offering suggestions. Sometimes, they simply listen.

Mentors who can listen and reflect on the information they’re given often understand more about you as a person. They know your specific history and situation, so their suggestions are more relevant to you. One mentor of mine often lets me talk through issues without offering a single piece of advice. Instead, they ask questions to help me come to my own conclusions. This has developed my problem-solving skills, as well as my confidence in decision-making.

If you know someone who is a great listener and offers thoughtful advice, they may be a good mentor for you.

7. Invested in Your Growth and Development

Mentors help you grow both personally and professionally by sharing ways to improve and offering timely advice.

But what sets the best mentors apart is the ability to focus on your development as well as their own. Of course, you want a mentor who has been in your position and who can help you grow. If a mentor also puts time into developing themselves and breaking out of their comfort zones, you’ve found a gem.

These types of people often have their own mentors. They constantly work to improve themselves and are usually life-long learners. Not only do they pursue their own passions, but they also encourage your goals and creativity.

8. Strong Relationships and Networks

Not all mentors are older or more experienced than you. Personally, I have a mentor who is younger than me but with many more years of experience in a particular niche.

The one thing you do want to consider, despite age or experience, is your mentor’s relationships. Do they have a strong network? Are they connected to influential people in your industry? Are they willing to introduce you or recommend you for a role?

A good mentor has spent years developing solid relationships with people – and they’re willing to bring you into their close circle. This can help expand your network and open up opportunities you may not have had otherwise. One of my mentors, Meg Prater – a Senior Manager of Content at HubSpot – has connected me to a number of people when I’ve been looking for job recommendations or new business clients.

As in all relationships, mentorship isn’t one-sided. Mentors also look for mentees with strong networks to expand their professional connections. So put time into developing your relationships and growing your network. You never know who may be of interest to a mentor.

9. Ability to Devote Time to Mentorship

Many people have the traits to be good mentors but can’t devote the time it demands. A mentor-mentee relationship takes effort from both sides. Without dedication, it won’t work.

A good mentor should be willing to hop on a call, send a thoughtful email, or meet up for coffee. If they’re not, the relationships can quickly fizzle. Of course, there’s plenty of legwork the mentee has to do to keep the relationships strong. But the mentor must be able to offer support in exchange for the mentee’s efforts.

That said, there’s no predetermined amount of time for good mentorship. It depends on the people involved and the nature of the relationship. You might talk to a mentor once a quarter or meet up once a month for lunch. Some of your mentors may only be around for a short time, while others may be around for life. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your mentor to decide the cadence that works best.

Once you do find someone with these mentor traits who inspires you, work on developing a relationship with them, rather than asking them to be your mentor right away. In time, you won’t feel the pressure of asking them to be your mentor – you’ll simply be getting guidance from a friend.

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Native video tops social media in brand awareness study

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Native video tops social media in brand awareness study


Native video ads have a greater impact than video ads on social and video platforms, a new study from Kantar reported. The Multichannel Brand Impact study measured video ad effectiveness for brand goals in native environments against other environments.

Favorability. Participants in the study gave a favorable rating 59% of the time when exposed to a native video ad. That number dropped to 50% on social platforms and 51% in a video platform environment.

Source: Kantar Context Lab/Taboola.

Awareness. 33% of participants displayed top-of-mind awareness about a brand when shown a native video ad. This displayed a marked improvement over the control group, which only had 14% top-of-mind awareness.

When native video was combined with social video ads, the awareness climbed to 49%.

Impact of native ads. Taboola, which sells content discovery and native advertising products, sponsored the study.

“With industry estimates indicating that video advertising in the U.S. will reach nearly $50B this year, brands have a lot of opportunities to influence customers, as long as they’re choosing the right platforms and mix of platforms to relay their messages,” said Taboola CEO and founder Adam Singolda, in a company release.

Read next: Taboola acquires Connexity

Why we care. Social media is where consumers receive word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends. Still a potent source of brand impact for marketers. But social is also a highly contentious space for politics and other turnoffs. It’s not the ace in the hole it once was, and should be complemented with other native environments in a digital video campaign.


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About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.



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Worsening economy has more shoppers getting online info before making in-store purchases

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Worsening economy has more shoppers getting online info before making in-store purchases


Summer’s here and the shoppers are wary. Consumer spending increased in May, but only by 0.2%, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. This explains why 76% of U.S. shoppers are searching online for reviews and better prices before buying in store, according to a new Adobe Commerce study of sentiment among over 1,000 U.S. consumers. Also, when they’re in a store 60% are using their phone to look for better prices elsewhere.

Another sign of the slowing economy: 24% say they won’t be able to take advantage of big summer holiday sales because they have less discretionary money to spend due to inflation and the higher cost of goods. 

Read next: Adobe: Online prices were up only 2% in May

On the good news side: 76% of those planning to participate in summer sales say they’ll spend more or the same amount as last year. And the motivation varies — more than half (56%) of consumers say they save money by shopping on Prime Day and other sales events, while others want to get ahead of their seasonal holiday (32%) and back-to-school shopping (23%).

However, most of those who intend to buy don’t believe big retailers’ promises of deeper discounts because of overstocking. Almost 65% expect discounts to be smaller than last year. 

Other findings:

  • 61% said receiving personalized promotions or recommendations will make them more likely to make a purchase.
  • 43% said they are more likely to purchase from a retailer that offers buy now, pay later.
  • 72% want the online purchases delivered the same day or via two-day shipping.
  • 50% are now more likely to make retail purchases on their phones, 26% prefer in-store shopping and 24% prefer shopping via their computer
  • 57% search for and buy products online if they can’t find them in stores.
Categories for which consumers report using buy now, purchase later.

Why we care. Inflation and higher interest rates are, as expected, taking an increased toll on consumer spending. That makes marketing more important than ever, via activities like personalization and customer experience. That should also include offering payment options like buy now, pay later. People are used to putting everything on a credit card, but interest rates are making that less attractive to them.


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About The Author

Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for CBSNews.com, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.



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Getting Started with the Agile Marketing Navigator: Building a Marketing Backlog

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Freeing agile marketing from its software development roots


We recently introduced you to Agile Marketing Navigator, a flexible framework for navigating agile marketing for marketers, by marketers in the article A new way to navigate agile marketing. The navigator has four major components: Collaborative Planning Workshop, Launch Cycle, Key Practices and Roles. Within these categories, there are several sub-pieces for implementation. In recent articles, we covered the pieces in the first stop of the navigator, the Collaborative Planning Workshop.

Now we’re going to dive into the next stop on your agile marketing journey — the Launch Cycle. The Launch Cycle is a repeatable cadence for delivering valuable marketing experiences early and often. Within the Launch Cycle there are five key components — Marketing Backlog, Cycle Planning, Daily Huddle, Team Showcase and Team Improvement. If you’re familiar with the Scrum framework, there are a lot of similarities here — with a few different nuances to make it more applicable to marketers.

Building and managing an effective Marketing Backlog

Now, let’s dive into the Marketing Backlog and some tips and tricks for marketers to be most effective. 

The Marketing Backlog is an ordered list of prioritized work that the agile team will pull from to work on in their Launch Cycle. The backlog is emergent, not static, and changes as new information is learned. 

This part of the framework is incredibly important and can have a major impact on how marketers work. First of all, there’s one shared place where all work lives. This avoids work happening “behind the scenes” that no one knows about.

In fact, one client that I worked with took all of the work that was already assigned to stakeholders, put it in a single backlog and realized that it would take five years to deliver! It’s with this level of transparency that teams and leaders can begin to visualize everything the team is doing and start to really understand what’s important and what may just be someone’s pet project.

There are many tools for managing your marketing backlog and they all have their pros and cons. The main thing to watch out for is ensuring that everyone on the team, as well as stakeholders have access. We want to build a transparent system.

If you’ve started with the Collaborative Planning Workshop, you’ve already begun to build out the Marketing Backlog. The items in your Minimally Viable Launch will go near the top, and other items will fall below. Work is never guaranteed until the team starts working on it, and even then sound business reasons could cause them to pivot, although that shouldn’t be the norm.

Prioritizing the backlog is one of the key responsibilities of the Marketing Owner. While they don’t do this in a vacuum and conversations with stakeholders are imperative, this role has the ultimate authority to decide what order the team will work on and which items won’t be considered (there are always way more good ideas than time).

The role of the Marketing Owner

The Marketing Owner needs to really understand the business value that each idea brings. Each marketing backlog should be thought of in terms of:

  • Level of effort it will take the team to complete (let’s face it — all things aren’t created equal. Building a Tesla may take longer than a base model Honda, so think through marketing ideas as well).
  • What value does it bring to customers? Joy? Satisfaction? Solves a problem? Addresses a cause?
  • What will the business gain from this idea, and how does it tie to business goals, KPIs and revenue?

Stakeholders, customers and team members should all be thinking about new ideas all of the time and everyone is invited to submit ideas to the backlog. However, it’s at the Marketing Owner’s discretion to decide which ideas will be worked on by the team and when.


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Work should never be directly assigned to a team member in agile marketing. It should be submitted to the backlog or discussed with the marketing owner as it needs to be visible and prioritized among everything else.

In agile marketing, backlog items should be used to test and learn and are thought of as micro-experiments, rather than large campaign blasts. 

While a backlog item may be for a post on Facebook, the team should be thinking in terms of testing elements, such as content. If the content is successful, similar content pieces would be on the backlog. However, if the content doesn’t perform well, the team would want to think of new backlog items with different content.


agile marketing workflow

Catch up on the Agile Marketing Navigator series!


The backlog may contain some business as usual items to keep the lights on, but the majority of items should be small, testable experiments that can quickly get to customers for real-time feedback.

If you haven’t started a marketing backlog yet, what are you waiting for?


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Stacey knows what it’s like to be a marketer, after all, she’s one of the few agile coaches and trainers that got her start there. After graduating from journalism school, she worked as a content writer, strategist, director and adjunct marketing professor. She became passionate about agile as a better way to work in 2012 when she experimented with it for an ad agency client. Since then she has been a scrum master, agile coach and has helped with numerous agile transformations with teams across the globe. Stacey speaks at several agile conferences, has more certs to her name than she can remember and loves to practice agile at home with her family. As a lifelong Minnesotan, she recently relocated to North Carolina where she’s busy learning how to cook grits and say “y’all.”



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