How to Find the Right Business Mentor for You
If you’re just starting out in the business world or making a drastic career shift, it’s important that you find someone to offer objective advice and mentorship to help you succeed. Business mentorship is characterized by a relationship in which a more proficient professional guides one with less experience. Mentorship can give young professionals and entrepreneurs an invaluable leg up in today’s competitive marketplace; it also gives more experienced businesspeople the opportunity to train and share their wisdom with a younger generation.
Why Do I Need a Business Mentor?
An effective business mentor offers unseasoned workers far more than simple encouragement. Unlike friends, good business mentors provide honest, critical advice and guidance instead of just telling you what you want to hear. By learning from your mentor’s mistakes, you can avoid potential pitfalls and stumbling blocks on the road to success.
Whereas you may be used to positive encouragement from your parents and friends, you must be open to criticism with a mentor. While you don’t have to take every piece of advice your mentor gives you, it’s important to have an open mind and be honest about your own flaws and weaknesses. Remember that part of your mentor’s job is to identify potential areas of improvement to help you grow and to recognize when you’re losing your way. In fact, a recent MentorCity article indicates that employees with mentors are promoted five times as often as those who don’t receive mentoring.
In addition to providing advice about a wide range of challenges, including company politics, leadership development and goal setting, business mentors can help you make valuable contacts within your field. Just remember that it’s not a mentor’s responsibility to get you a new job or to connect you with the people you want. If you demonstrate initiative, hard work and consistency, you will position yourself as a trusted worker that your mentor will want to refer to his or her colleagues. While a mentor may expose you to the right people, it’s up to you to connect the dots.
Characteristics of a Good Business Mentor
Understanding the important traits of a good business mentor can help ensure you select someone who is up to the task. A recent UC San Francisco study recommends finding a mentor who shares your values. If your goal is to change the world, it’s only logical that you seek advice from a mentor who is experienced in non-profits, charitable work or other progressive ventures.
Additionally, good mentors are also good listeners. While you want your mentor to provide advice and guidance to help you avoid potential pitfalls, a successful mentor will tailor his or her instruction to your specific needs and desires. In some cases, good mentoring requires actively listening while the mentee talks through a problem or concern.
Of course, it doesn’t matter how good your mentor is if he or she isn’taccessible. While you can’t expect your mentor to be available at all hours of the day and night, it’s important to choose someone who is willing and able to devote some time to the relationship.
If your business mentor can’t make the time to see you at least once every month or so, he or she may not have enough time to adequately help you (or may be too polite to turn you down). Good business mentors will be receptive to your invitation to meet as long as you give them some heads up. To show you respect your mentor’s time, consider sending an email a week in advance to determine a clear time and place. You may also want to set an agenda, but don’t be afraid to let the conversation veer off course, as doing so may yield valuable gems of knowledge that you didn’t know you needed.
Finding a Mentor
Once you’ve determined what characteristics your business mentor should have, it’s time to begin the search. Fortunately, there are a number of places where young professionals and entrepreneurs can find a mentor to help further their careers.
For people just starting out in a given field, industry groups and networking events can be a great place to learn more about your chosen career while discovering mentorship opportunities. From law to screenwriting, meet-up opportunities exist for almost every field. Remember to dress professionally for these events and to bring business cards to hand out. If you make a connection, hold off on asking that person to mentor you right away. Instead, invite them out for coffee or lunch and ask them to tell you about themselves and their career. People naturally enjoy talking about themselves and are usually more than willing to answer questions about how they accomplished their achievements.
Another great source for potential mentors is your extended network. Alert your friends and relatives that you’re looking for a mentor in your industry or field, and see if they know anyone who fits the bill. Potential mentors are much more likely to meet with you on the recommendation of someone whose opinion they know and trust.
If you can’t find a mentor among your friends or acquaintances, don’t worry; these days, the internet is a great resource for finding and cultivating business mentorship relationships. Thanks to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, you can exchange short messages to form a connection with your would-be mentor before asking for any favors or advice. LinkedIn is an especially useful social media tool for finding both mentorship and job opportunities. In addition to letting you search connections within your extended networks, LinkedIn helps professionals find other people working in their chosen industries. Take the time to do your research about your potential mentor, and understand his or her background and experience, as this will help you establish a more genuine connection.
If all else fails, you can always turn to a professional mentor-finding organization for help. ManyMentors is a mobile mentoring app that connects potential protégés with mentors working in the science and technology industries. Another mobile service known as Clarity helps startup founders get advice from established industry professionals and venture capitalists. Do your research, and find the right web or mobile service to help make your mentorship dreams a reality.
It’s clear that a good mentor can help you make significant strides in your chosen career. By knowing what to expect from the mentor-protégé relationship, and by being respectful of your mentor’s time, you can help ensure that you and your mentor continue working together for years to come.
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire has served as a writer, editor and content manager. Currently, she works as a full-time freelance writer based in Los Angeles.