Learning From Your Business Mentor
Most dictionaries define “mentor” as an experienced and trusted advisor. What they don’t define, however, is how to find and learn from a good one. It takes a fair amount of searching both inside and out. The good news, however, is that once you do find yours, there’s no limit to how much you can gain from the relationship.
Where to Look
Finding a good business mentor is a little like buying a car. The more research and testing you do, the more likely you’ll find someone that matches your style. This means attending work events or industry trade fairs and sizing up potential candidates. You might even consider joining business clubs such as your local Rotary or using social sites like LinkedIn to open up more possibilities.
What to Look For
When seeking a mentor, look for someone you can rely on to tell it to you straight. A “yes” man or woman might be easier to get along with, but a mentor who agrees with everything you do is denying you the opportunity to grow. Look for someone who can challenge your opinions and help you identify and overcome weaknesses. A relationship with a mentor must be built on trust, honesty and open communication.
Maximizing the Mentor Relationship
The more you contribute to the mentor relationship, the more you’ll get out of it. When starting out, take time to provide your mentor with a profile of yourself. This might include details on your education, positions you’ve held in the past, the accomplishments you’ve achieved and other helpful background information. Share your vision of where you’d like to be in the future. The more your mentor knows about you, the more helpful he or she can be.
When One Mentor Isn’t Enough
Sometimes it pays to have more than one mentor. If you’re looking for guidance on several fronts try building a network of mentors who can help you in specific areas. For example, a mentor who understands marketing can shed light on creating an annual plan. A mentor with an accounting background might help you navigate changes to tax laws. Think of every area you’d like to know more about and use this as a basis for your mentor network search.
No matter how much you learn from your mentor, resist the urge to become too confident. If you feel you’ve learned all you can from your mentor, be open and tell him or her. There’s a very good chance he or she has more to give, and even if this isn’t the case, he or she may be able to help you find new mentors who can help you continue learning.
Finding a mentor that can help you evolve as a business owner can be a challenge. However, the benefits of doing so can make it all worthwhile.