Fortune's Katherine Reynolds Lewis has written a good column titled "Five Mentor Mistakes to Avoid." She makes two particularly strong points worth emphasizing here. First, consider selecting a mentor who is not similar to you. In many cases, people select mentors with whom they share some key things in common (perhaps educational background, gender, functional expertise, race). However, Lewis suggests that picking someone similar to you may be a crucial mistake. A mentoring relationship may deliver more fruit if you can learn from someone whose background and expertise enables them to offer you a different perspective. Here's one excerpt:
When technology executive Sharon Meers, co-author of Getting to 50/50, was a vice president at Goldman Sachs, the women's network discovered that all the male vice presidents were playing basketball with the senior leaders. They asked the partners to create a program that would match women with senior men as mentors. A number of women who participated advanced to become managing directors.
Second, Lewis recommends thinking about mentoring as a two-way relationship. I have written about that point several times, including on this blog. Senior leaders should not only impart advice in a mentoring relationship. They should use the opportunity to learn from their younger colleagues. Making the mentoring relationship a two-way street can be incredibly beneficial.