Who needs a mentor? Aspiring entrepreneurs, successful business people, those just starting out, and everyone who wants to be a successful and career confident woman or man can benefit from having a mentor.
Chances are we have all had a mentoring relationship of some type. Many of us are mentors to others. In a recent by CareerWomen.com, 64% of the respondents indicated they have a formal or informal mentor. Successful women frequently credit a mentor for helping them advance in their career.
I am fortunate to have identified mentors throughout my career who have generously shared with me business contacts, resources, tools, and tips that has enhanced my corporate and entrepreneurial success. My transition from a 20-year career in a large organization to owner of a small business was supported by numerous mentors
from the Greek Classics to the modern business world: The descriptions of Mentor, a character in Homer’s Odyssey, from which we derive the term mentor, give insight into the mentoring relationship.
Homer’s character Mentor is a person of deep trust, a wise old man, and an elder who instills knowledge and guides one to find the answers he seeks. In the modern world, a mentor does the essentially the same thing. A mentor can provide advice, facilitate networking with key contacts, accelerate progress on the learning curve, help you navigate the organization’s culture, guide decision-making, and be a source of feedback and motivation. Perhaps some of the most beneficial roles of a mentor are to empower, inspire, and believe in you and your success potential.
Finding a mentor who is right for you: The first thing to consider when seeking a mentor is your goals. Define what you are looking for and where you need a mentor’s support. Then, observe success. A good mentor is someone who has been there and done that. She/he is someone who has the knowledge and insight to provide value consistent with your goals. Observe the strengths of your managers, peers, and colleagues in your network.
Consider those who have strengths in the areas you most need to develop. Ask them to be a mentor for you. If you want to be part of the formal mentoring program in your organization, don’t wait to be noticed. Ask. Asking for what you want often is one of the most daunting things for many mentor worthy individuals. If you are uncomfortable speaking up, speaking out and asking for support such as a mentor then this becomes your number one goal for your work with a mentor or a coach.
Other ways to find a mentor is to participate in volunteer and professional organizations both within and outside your profession organizations. You may even consider a long distance mentor with whom you can speak regularly by telephone.
Tap different expertise. You need not limit yourself to one mentor. Have an entire “Advisory Board of Mentors” if you are fortunate enough to find people who are willing and capable to serve in that capacity.
Female or male mentor: Selecting a female or male mentor again depends upon your goals. Cross-gender mentoring can have many benefits. Men and women typically have different strengths. Males can provide guidance in developing the skills to work in a male dominated field; men often have good negotiating skills and are usually the majority of the senior leaders in an organization so they can help with advancement of your career by facilitating your relationships with other senior leaders. Women’s strengths include dealing with the gender bias, building a network of business relationships, team management…
Be mentor worthy: Use your mentor’s time productively. Complaining or whining is not a constructive use of your time with your mentor. Here are ten tips for a successful mentoring relationship.
* Know what you want and have clear goals for the relationship.
* Communicate your expectations to your mentor
* Be open, honest, and direct with your mentor.
* Establish priority issues for action or support.
* Come prepared to each meeting with issues to discuss.
* Don’t expect your mentor to be an expert in every facet of business.
* Ask for and use resources and contacts with other members in the organization
* Solicit feedback from your mentor. Don’t take constructive upgrades personally
* Recognize the feedback of a good mentor is in your best interest.
* Take action. Even when your mentor asks you to stretch outside your comfort zone.
Have a mentor and be a mentor: Be a mentor- enhance the journey of another by sharing your time, wisdom, insight and experience. Don’t doubt that you have something to offer another in a mentoring relationship – you most likely do. Here are 12 tips to help you be a good mentor.
* Establish clear expectations and boundaries for the relationship
* Create a positive constructive atmosphere.
* Allow mentee choice to accept, reject, or ponder advice.
* Listen and hear both what is and is not being said
* Identify opportunities and offer decision-making guidance as well as solutions.
* Use a problem-solving, coach-approach, asking questions and soliciting mentee input.
* Offer honest and direct feedback. Don’t avoid tough conversations.
* Share stories, including mistakes from personal experience- your career “do-overs.”
* Request mentee do ‘homework’ to enhance growth.
* Serve as a connecter to other business colleagues by inviting to lunches, meetings, etc.
* Be open and solicit feedback from mentee
* Be fully present in mentor meetings.
Divorcing your mentor: Mentoring relationships will eventually end. One reason is that expectations of the mentor or mentee are not met. Other times there are clashes in personalities or styles. Pitfalls around “fit” are not uncommon. It is also possible to outgrow the mentoring relationship. Establishing a mentoring relationship with an ‘until death do us part’ attitude is not the best approach.
A good way to avoid a problem ending a mentoring relationship is to establish time boundaries and expectations at the beginning of the relationship. A three-month period of weekly meetings is a good starting point. Either party has the choice to request an extension of the relationship at the end of the expected period. Moving on and finding new and different mentors is worthwhile. A new mentor can further expand your knowledge skills and perspectives. You are never too experienced to benefit from the support of a mentor.