It's natural to look up to people at the top of their field, and to want to learn directly from them. One of the most consistent pieces of advice in pursuing a career is to seek out mentorship; at the same time, we all could use a better understanding of what that really means. Picking the right mentor isn't as simple as choosing the most successful person who will take you on.
Researchers at the University of Toronto have just published a study using the reality show The Voice to tease out these implications. By looking at four early seasons for clues about contestants matching with coaches, the team uncovered a surprising and counterintuitive truth. A contestant's success within the show had little to do with a coach's track record; instead, it correlated strongly with how much enthusiasm the coach had for the singer.
In the working world, mentorship isn't just a means for personal success, but a crucial ingredient for getting much-needed diversity into leadership positions. The mentor relationship can be important at any and all stages of a career, which can change what kind of relationship you seek out in the first place. When we skip out on these opportunities, we can get overconfident and then wonder why we stall out. The most important things we learn from mentors are often the ones we never mention directly, so if you can choose the one who excites you and reciprocates that connection, you're well on your way to getting what you need.