Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or looking for professional career guidance a business mentor can help you define and reach important life goals.
But finding a good match can take time.
Here are some guidelines to help you find the right business mentor and make sure the mentor-mentee relationship gets off on the right foot.
How to Start Your Search for a Business Mentor
A mentor is someone who works in the same or similar industry with the business skills and career knowledge to help you follow in their footsteps.
Find someone who’s advice you genuinely value and trust.
“The best mentors shouldn’t tell you exactly what you do,” advises David Cohen, CEO of TechStars.
“They understand their role as an advisor and that it’s your company to run, not theirs. Those who tell entrepreneurs what to do, and become upset when their instructions aren’t followed, often cause more damage than good.”
Step 1: Define Goals and Expectations
“Before seeking out mentors, write down your specific expectations and the role you want mentors to play in your career,” says Lisa Quast from Forbes.
“Do you want someone who can help your stalled networking attempts, assist you in learning more about a certain industry, or guide how to be a successful entrepreneur?”
Here are some questions you should ask yourself to help establish and your ultimate goal for bringing in a business mentor:
- What do you want out of your current job/career?
- What is your ultimate “why” for your business?
- What do you want from your career?
- What’s your definition of success?
- What do you hope to learn from your business mentor?
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or expert in your field looking to move up the ranks, these are the types of questions you should be asking yourself as you move into the next stage of your career.
Turn the answers into expectations for the person who will fill this role.
For example, if you want to run your own company, you should find a business owner or CEO. If you want a career in digital marketing, find someone who has experienced success in that field.
Step 2: Look for Networking Opportunities
Now that you understand why you need a mentor and have identified the qualities this person should possess, how do you go about finding them?
Today business mentors are everywhere. You might want to start by seeking out connections on LinkedIn. You may also ask your family, peers, and coworkers if they can recommend someone for you to work with.
There’s a broad network out there who are easily reachable, so don’t hesitate to cast the net wide.
If you’re considering an event, be it online or in person, be on the lookout for business and industry conferences and meetups where you’ll have an opportunity to meet high-level professionals.
Consider perusing the guest list and speaker panels, if there are any, before the event; this will help you determine if someone that fits your criteria will be in attendance.
You may want to ask someone to be your mentor right away—but hold off. Instead, exchange contact info and continue connecting with others in attendance. You may find a few different people you’d like to work with, all of which can be helpful.
“Focus on meeting with and building a diverse group of individuals and surround yourself with the people that can help you reach specific business goals,” says Ted Rollins, ecopreneur and founder of Valeo Groupe.
He continues, “Commit to your purpose and as these relationships grow, consider how they fit into that burgeoning ‘why.’”
Step 3: Arrange Informal Interviews
Once you have found a few people who might be good matches, set up some informal interviews.
This is your chance to get to know one another better and learn about how you can make this relationship mutually beneficial. Use this time to learn more about their experience, definition of success, and business values.
Share your professional goals and what you’re looking for in a mentor.
When scheduling, be as flexible as possible, says David Simnick, of SoapBox: “When you are reaching out to someone with experience and knowledge, who can save you years of mistake and heartache, the most insulting thing you can do is care about your calendar.
Please don’t reply ‘any of those times work.’ You are reaching out to me and, as a courtesy, should demonstrate an effort to work around my schedule.”
Step 4: Make it Reciprocal
Don’t make the relationship all about you. “Right from the beginning, make your relationship reciprocal,” advises Lolly Daskal, a Leadership Development and CEO coach. “Make it a point to create opportunities and provide help to your mentor, regardless of their success.”
Sometimes simply connecting them with a like-minded individual is helpful.
When your mentor does give you advice or action items, make sure you follow through. No one wants to work with someone who doesn’t listen or has his or her agenda.
Don’t Give Up
If you don’t find the ideal person to work with right away, don’t worry. There are so many possibilities out there, and finding the perfect business mentor doesn’t need to happen overnight for you to find success.
There are plenty of online tools out there which will help you connect with people in your tribe who have the career or business that you’re dreaming about right now. They can help you make your dreams a reality.
Ultimately, your mentor may even find you—so be open to all possibilities.
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