A mentor is a seasoned professional who informally helps guide a lesser experienced person in their professional endeavors. A mentorship is mutually beneficial for the mentor and mentee. Find an experienced mentor in your network and industry that holds your same values.
If you have a sense that I can be your mentor, please contact me and we will schedule a walk to get to know eachother.
Personal and professional development is important for everyone to achieve – one such relationship that can help those with lesser experience hone their professional skills is a mentorship. If you fall into this category, it is important to have a good understanding of what a mentor is, what qualities they have, and how to find and develop a great mentorship relationship.
What is a mentor?
A mentorship is a mutually beneficial professional relationship in which an experienced individual (the mentor) imparts knowledge, expertise and wisdom to a less experienced person (the mentee), while simultaneously honing their mentoring skills. An effective mentor can professionally guide the mentee while maintaining a friendly and supportive relationship. A mentor should always have the mentee's best interests in mind and tailor their mentorship style to meet the needs of the mentee.
Anyone looking for a mentor should keep these three things in mind:
- Define what you want out of your career and what you need to learn to get there.
- Approach a mentor relationship as if it's a business friendship – be casual and friendly.
- Start with your own professional network.
What is the difference between a coach and a mentor?
Many people confuse coaching and mentoring; however, they are different relationships with different purposes.
Coaching is generally a short-term personal relationship between two people in which the coach uses thought-provoking and creative strategies to help the client develop personally or professionally. On the other hand, a mentorship is a longer relationship – generally a year or more – that is mutually beneficial. The mentor helps the mentee develop professional skills or expertise, and the mentee allows the mentor to develop their leadership skills.
What does a mentor do?
Whether you're the founder of a brand-new startup or an entrepreneur with a bit of business experience under your belt, you can always benefit from a mentor.
"A mentor can serve as a sounding board at critical points throughout your career," Diane Domeyer Kock, executive director of staffing firm The Creative Group, told Business News Daily. "They can provide guidance on career management you may not be able to get from other sources and an insider's perspective on the business, as well as make introductions to key industry contacts."
Doña Storey, an OPEN Mentorship Institute mentor and American Express OPEN advisor on procurement, noted that mentors can help their mentees identify and avoid business pitfalls, and work through the challenges ahead of them.
Another important aspect that Vicki Salemi, a career expert for popular job search platform Monster, pointed out is that when we're immersed in our own careers, it's easy to lose sight of the big picture. It's important to have mentors – especially early in your career. These should be people other than your boss, and they should provide insight on getting ahead as well as supporting your overall goals.
Why you should consider working with a mentor
A mentor can be a very valuable asset, especially for young, aspiring entrepreneurs, and those new to the world of business. There are several benefits to working with a mentor.
It offers you a new perspective from a seasoned professional.
Finding the right mentor is not a secret to success – it's as obvious as it is essential. Learning from someone older, wiser and more experienced is an invaluable business opportunity, whether you've just started your first job or you're halfway through your career. As we slip into the day-to-day routine of working life, it's easy to get lost in the moment – our problems are six inches from our face, and a mentor can be the person to reset things so we can look at our careers and growth from a new perspective.
Ryan Holiday, an author and career expert, said finding a mentor starts with working hard and developing a personal reputation of success. By focusing on your own role and career, you can set yourself up to connect with more seasoned business professionals who will see your talent and want to help you grow.
"Powerful people are constantly on the lookout for talented young people; they cannot find enough of them," he said. "To develop a reputation as someone who is teachable, curious, motivated, talented, and above all, well-balanced and reliable, is the single best way to attract a mentor. As Sheryl Sandberg said, 'It's not find a mentor, and you will do well; it's do well, and a mentor will find you.'"
What qualities does a good mentor have?
It is important to choose wisely when selecting a mentor. This is someone you should look up to and aspire to be like. With that said, there are several qualities that all good mentors share.
Experience and success
At the most basic level, your mentor should have more experience than you and a track record of success.
"A great mentor is someone whose qualities make up a much better version of who you envision yourself to become," said Argyropoulos. "On the other hand, some great mentors may help you to learn who not to be like – for example, a very successful businessman who is struggling in his personal life. Great mentors have a complementary skill set and bring different qualities to the table. Different perspectives are valuable in the mentor-mentee relationship."
Authenticity, empathy, creativity and honesty
Doug White, a career expert and editor of career and management insights website TCG Blog, recommended seeking a mentor who has a strong character and traits worth emulating.
"Look for mentors who are authentic, empathetic, creative and honest," said White. "You need someone who's caring and invested in your professional growth, but also someone who will speak truth to you. Sometimes you need some constructive criticism or a reality check, while other times you need a high five or pat on the back. A well-chosen mentor can provide all of those things."
Similar values to your own
A mentor in the same business area as you may better understand your business's challenges and concerns, but Storey said that fruitful mentoring relationships don't necessarily have to happen within the same industry. Leadership philosophy may be more important.
"Make sure that the mentor shares a similar value system in leadership and management," Storey said. "Knowing who you are as a leader is critical before entering into a mentoring relationship. Only then can you align yourself with the right guide."