Savvy business owners and CEOs recognize the importance of having a mentor. From business advice to personal insight, a good mentor can provide tangible benefits to any entrepreneur. Whether you’re an experienced executive or just starting your career, a mentor’s advice can be invaluable.
Benefits of Mentorship
Mentors are people who are great at what they do and who have achieved a level of experience and success that others aspire to. Many mentors had mentors themselves and can see the immense value of the process. They “pay it forward” to the next generation of future business leaders by sharing their expertise and experience.
Collaboration is one of the main benefits of mentorship; with a mentor, you’ll have someone who can serve as a sounding board for your ideas. Mentors also provide support, encouragement, and a jolt of confidence when you may need it the most. They are able to share with you what has worked for them and what hasn’t, and how the lessons they’ve learned can be applied to your situation. This insight will often save you both time and money, since you have someone actively helping you avoid costly mistakes. Though experience is the best teacher, mentorship proves that it is often better to learn from someone else’s mistakes.
Mentors also provide you with industry insight, which will give you an edge in your business dealings. Mentors have connections within their industry that might take you years to build on your own, and they don’t mind sharing information that can help your business flourish. If you’re just starting out in your career, mentors can guide you toward job prospects and connect you to others who can have a positive impact on your career.
If you are starting your own company, mentorship may be even more important, especially early on. You may be starting completely on your own and lack the benefit of having someone to help you stay on track or provide constructive feedback. TechCrunch performed a study that found that 33% of startups that had the guidance of a successful mentor went on to find a high level of success, compared to just 10% of companies who did not have mentor guidance.
In addition, it’s important to remember that mentorship is still an option even if you are an experienced executive—there are many mentorship resources for high-level executives and business owners. As you become more successful, the pool of people who can give advice and candidly point out missteps naturally becomes smaller. But even at this stage of your career, a mentor can help you sharpen your leadership and strategic business skills.
How to Find a Good Mentor
Finding a mentor is not as difficult as it may seem. Many successful professionals and business owners are eager to share their knowledge with those who are truly interested in learning. While it’s true that CEOs and business owners are extremely busy, this does not necessarily mean that they won’t make time to meet with you.
However, most experts advise against asking a complete stranger to be your mentor. Their answer will rarely be yes; they don’t know who you are or if the investment of their time will be worth it. Instead, look for people in your network who inspire you and who are familiar with your talents and goals—perhaps a former manager or more experienced colleague, an instructor of a class you took, or someone you worked on a project with. Networking groups or local chapters of professional organizations are other great ways to meet with people who are experienced in your industry.
Remember that the most productive mentor-mentee relationships usually develop organically, and the relationship doesn’t even need to have the “mentor” label. You may not even need specific goals. A mentor can simply be an experienced person with whom you meet for coffee every week to discuss your work or tease out a problem.
When looking for a mentor, it’s also important to remember that the relationship is not a one-way street; a mentor isn’t there to solve all your problems or devote all their non-working hours to assisting you. Think about what you have to offer your mentor. Even if you are in the early years of your career, you still can contribute something to the relationship.
There is no shortage of great mentorship opportunities, but the biggest obstacle will be making the decision to work with a mentor. Mentorship, like any relationship, must be reciprocal, and both parties have to put in the time to maintain the relationship. Finding a mentor that can bring out the best in you and your company is definitely possible.