“He scares me to death. That’s why I’ve asked him to be my mentor”

Think of the classic mentor/protege relationship. Your mind may conjure up images of the benevolent, caring tutor and the eager, receptive student in a perfect give and take. A friendly, healthy exchange of ideas and wisdom. Sounds idyllic…

But if you’re looking for a mentor who can provide cold, hard advice and sharpen and diversify your skillset, you might be best served by going outside your comfort zone.
Consider seeking out someone at work who challenges your sensibilities, upends your idea of how things are supposed to be done—maybe even someone who flat-out frightens you.

Look for someone who’ll make you step up your game, who sets you back on your heels—someone who exhibits behaviors that you find professionally admirable, but difficult to imagine in yourself: Shrewdness, unflappability, assertiveness. Does anyone in particular come to mind? Float the idea by them and see how they respond. People who scare others away often make the best mentors.

Christopher Wofford is Digital Media Producer and host of WebSeries at eCornell.
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