Thought #12: 7 Characteristics of Great Advisors

It’s been a while since I’ve worked inside a high school or an after-school setting in an advising capacity, so I was excited when I was asked to train the advising and direct support staff at 100% College Prep on advising best practices and college admission requirements.

There is one activity that I’m proud of in particular. In this activity, I facilitated a free-write and group discussion in which I asked the group to consider the characteristics of great advisors using their own experiences as young people navigating the transition from high school to adulthood as a frame of reference and Gold Mine for illustrations of both successful and challenging advising experiences.

For Thought #12, I wanted to share some insights from the conversation that I started at 100% College Prep. The following are the 7 characteristics of great advisors, inspired by the staff of 100% College Prep.

1. They are Open, Honest, and Caring

The first characteristic we discussed is that great advisors are open, honest, and caring. Talking with the staff, most seemed to agree that the most memorable advisors have an ability to be simultaneously critical and nurturing. The group talked a lot about how great advisors made them feel like they could be extraordinary. It’s important to remember that when young people seek out advising they are looking for someone who is going to be patient enough to hear them out and respond to them in way that respects their agency and constructive moves them forward.

2. They Are Knowledgeable

Another characteristic we discussed is that great advisors are knowledgeable. We discussed how great advising generally requires for the advisor to possess a certain level of expertise on the topic they are giving advice about. For those in advising positions, it’s imperative to constantly participate in the process of acquiring new knowledge and striving to become a master of your craft.

3. They Expresses Genuine Interest

A third characteristic we discussed is that great advisors are distinguished by their genuine interest in their advisees’ aspirations and outcomes. We discussed how managing large caseloads and managing the other demands from work can distract an advisor from the main objective – build relationships. As challenging as it can be, great advisers have the ability to genuinely engage with their advisees.

4. They Are Willing to Go Above and Beyond

A fourth characteristic we discussed is that great advisors virtually always go above and beyond to ensure that their advisee succeeds. We discussed how there are times in life when all you feel like doing is the bare minimum; however, this attitude won’t make you great. Great advisors are committed to ensuring that their advisees achieve their goals.

5. They Suggest Strategies for Success

A fifth characteristic we discussed is that great advisors suggest strategies to promote their advisee’s success. Great advisors assess where youth are in their immediate reality then work with youth to develop a road-map to accomplish their goals and aspirations. A goal setting framework that I like to use with is SMART (See Thought #7: A Few Keys to Success for more about SMART Goal Setting).

6. They Are Great Listeners

A sixth characteristic we discussed is that great advisors tend to be the best listeners. We talk a lot about how a great advisor understands the importance of listening. Advising relationships tend to fall apart when advisors aren’t able to listen and get on the same page with their advisees.

7. They Are Present & Persistent

The final characteristic that I want to share is that great advisors are present and persistent. Any great salesperson understands that closing the Deal means focusing on building relationships, which can be protracted. When advising, being visible and consistent is a crucial aspect of being able to sell services.

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