Are you thinking of changing careers and wishing there was someone you could talk to who has made a similar switch? Perhaps you are pondering starting a business and could really use some guidance. Or, on the flip side, maybe you’ve done well in your career and want to pay it forward to help someone who’s at a lower rung on the ladder.
Great news – these people exist! They are called mentors and mentees, respectively. But first, let’s remember what a mentor is and what they do.
What is a mentor?
Mentors are people who, among other things, can take you under their wing to show you the ropes or to help you advance in business. They can be sources of inspiration, advice and encouragement, and can help you from making rookie mistakes, said Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls. They can make key introductions, elevate your platform and help you with connections. Mentoring can be a wonderful experience on both sides of the equation.
There are different types of mentors, which means you can have more than one, depending on your needs. According to Betty Liu from Bloomberg Market, there are four main types of mentors:
- The Coach – They can coach you through tough moments, think big picture on projects and ideas, and help you solve work-related problems
- The Connector – Connectors are outward-facing people whose very satisfaction comes from helping people meet each other.
- The Cheerleader – These are the people whom you can call after getting a big promotion and they will be as thrilled for you as your mother.
- The Challenger – If you want to grow, you will want some challengers in your life who will tell you when they think you’re doing something wrong or if an idea just plain sucks.
How to find a mentor
There are so many ways to find a mentor. Tara Dupuis, Owner & Founder Tara Dupuis LLC, advises:
- Get specific about what you are looking for. This will help you narrow down your search for a mentor.
- When searching for a mentor, see if you can find someone with a similar set of values to be on the same page from day one on your goals.
- Find someone that you feel connected with.
- Look at more than the number of followers on social media. Many mentors work in smaller circles or have a local reputation.
Additionally, Judy Farrell, Communications Director of Severn Leadership Group, says:
- Look for ways you can help them and incorporate yourself into their schedule. Whether you look for a mentor at work, a house of worship, or even through LinkedIn, establish a relationship by figuring out what you can offer them.
- Come prepared when they do meet with you. The mentors we seek are high achievers, which means their time is likely their most prized possession. Know what you would like to know about and come with specific questions they can answer.
How to become a mentor (yes, you’re qualified to be a mentor!)
- Understand your purpose. If you are thinking of becoming a mentor, take an honest assessment of your intentions. If the answer is to serve others, go for it! On the other hand, if your purpose is self-serving, potential proteges will discern that quickly and disappear on you!
- Make yourself available and be intentional. For example, either join a formal program or take some time to get to know less experienced coworkers to understand their areas of development.
- You must love seeing other people achieve success. Sharing your skillset and knowledge can be draining, but that is the greatest payoff if you get a boost from watching your clients soar.
- Think about your skills and what you can share with others. Do you have an edge in a certain industry? Do you have years of experience that gives you clout? Narrow down what it is that makes you stand out.
Mentorship is a two-way street that can be beneficial to both parties involved. While a mentor can provide a lot from their own life experience, a mentee can offer a fresh viewpoint and/or better experience with technology.
You can have more than one mentor and one mentee, whatever your time allows and the experience you are looking for.
“I am eternally grateful for all my mentors’ support and advice,” said Arnof-Fenn. “Their advice has helped me be thick skinned, brave, kind and smart which has helped me succeed both as an entrepreneur and within organizations. It is important to both give back and pay it forward to honor the people who mentored me.”