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3 Traits of a Mentor

3 Traits of a Good Mentor

As a child, I often sat at my grandmothers’ feet and listened to their stories—the true stories that showed their strength and the traditional stories, passed orally through generations, which made us wise. They must have known the African proverb, which states, “Nobody is born wise.” And they served as experienced and trusted advisers, pouring wisdom into our empty souls. Over the years, I’ve found other mentors with different experiences who also poured wisdom into me, filling my wisdom voids in the areas of academics, profession, marriage, and motherhood. In honor of National Mentoring month, I’m sharing three traits I most admire in my mentors—some of whom were not literate, connected, or financially positioned to be my sponsors—and traits you should seek, or will find, in your mentors.

  • Honesty. In some ways I am a teenager who sees folly as wisdom. With such limitation, I have needed people to come beside me and show my folly for what it is—foolishness. And, by listening to them and recognizing my foolishness, I gain wisdom. As you look for a mentor, find someone with a balanced view of you who can equally address your strengths and weaknesses with candor. As John Quincy Adams said, “All men profess honesty as long as they can. To believe all men honest would be folly. To believe none so would be worse.” Honest mentors are rare, but available to those who honestly seek mentoring and not flattery.
  • Care. I’m a millennial (hard to type that knowing the possible reactions). I have learned that caring is displayed in diverse ways. One of my first bosses out of college was intense (and that’s mildly put). She screamed when she wanted things, threw tantrums when things weren’t going her way, and rarely wasted a positive word on anyone. Yet, she was the one who invited me to my first Shabbat dinner, introduced me to financial literacy, and taught me never to burn bridges. Kinder people worked with us, but they didn’t invest in me as she did. Beware of wolf in sheep’s clothing as you choose your mentors, understanding that caring is often displayed by action, not just words.
  • Experience. Although I’m decisive—thanks to my dad’s many lectures on “it’s better to make the wrong decision than no decision”— I rarely come to a decision without some collaboration. Proverbs 15:22 states: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Now, as much as I love that verse, I’ve had to learn (the hard way) that quality of advisers is more important than the quantity of advisers. One of my advisers, before and during my law school journey, was a married woman who went to law school with two children. Because she had navigated the law student, wife, and mom roles concurrently, I choose to sit at her feet and learn from the experiences she kindly shared. If experience is the best teacher, find mentors who are well equipped to teach you from the well of their acquired wisdom.

Cheers to you and your mentors.

Best,
Samantha

Samantha Divine Jallah, Esq.
Executive Director, Liberian Awards