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The mentor you need now

Written by: Aaron Hurst
Published on: Mar 28, 2024

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(Image: Marc Schultz via Canva AI)

Having a mentor is often underrated, but can be crucial to improving your career. A good mentor can help provide counsel and support as you navigate the dynamic new world of work, where you are constantly changing jobs and seeking new opportunities to grow and make an impact in the world.

Mentors don’t have to be in your same field, but they’ll be best equipped to help you if you share a purpose.

Below are the four types of mentoring relationships. As you read, think about:

  • Which of these would be ideal for my career right now?
  • Who are people I already know who might be able to fill this need?

1. Exploration 

You’re just starting out on your career and don’t know which direction to go, or even what is possible. Or maybe you’re chomping at the bit to move onto something new, engage opportunities for personal growth, and ultimately increase the impact you are making on the world.

You need an explorer mentor. This mentor has a much broader and varied set of experiences to draw from that can help you make your next move, and the move after that. When, or if, you do finally land somewhere, your mentor has already helped you feel confident and empowered in the choice you make. You have seen more of the world, and better know the place you want to take in it.

2. Survival 

In your career, you will inevitably experience some tough challenges. In these hard times, you might seek a proverbial – or literal – shoulder to cry on. A survival mentor can serve as a necessary crutch to get you through the hard times, as well as a compass to guide you out to the other side. 

When seeking a survival mentor, look within your own networks, fields, demographic, or affinity groups to find someone trustworthy, with common experiences. Survival mentorships are characterized by empathy and understanding, not pity or attempts at “silver lining” our situation. They don’t have to be someone with a lot more work experience than you; they can be any friend who is a good listener and can help you think through your next move.

3. Validation 

A validation mentor is a powerful asset to have, especially when you are the new kid on the block. They boost your brand and personal confidence simply by association. Be it a respected senior member of your organization or a known leader in your profession, this association can open doors for you. 

In a world where opportunities can depend more on relationships than merit, respected individuals who know you can be a life-changing resource. But be careful! When looking for opportunities to leverage this connection, make sure they are also aware of your value to them. A mentor relationship has two sides, and their investment should pay off as well.

4. Transitional 

Maybe you’ve decided to go to graduate school to prepare for your next big career leap, or you’re coming back into your role after a leave of absence. A transitional mentor can be a thought partner who also offers you needed emotional support. 

Much like an exploration mentor, a transitional mentor is there for you in moments of uncertainty and change. They can help you launch from point A, and land at point B with confidence.


A relationship with a mentor can help you in countless ways, depending on your existing needs. A single person can even become each of the four different types of mentors as you and your career evolve.

While working to understand which type of mentor you need now, you also need to rethink the basis of the match: focus less on shared profession or demographics, and more on a shared purpose. Only then will you be able to leverage the full power of mentorship, from both sides of the relationship.

Ready to find the mentor you need? Check out this guide to finding your mentor in five easy steps.

Aaron Hurst is founder of Imperative and the author of The Purpose Economy.

This article was fact-checked and updated in March 2024.

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