The Importance of Mentorship and Tips for Finding a Mentor
When you look at some of the world’s foremost leaders in business and entrepreneurship, you’ll find a common theme: mentorship. From Homer’s Odysseus to Steve Jobs, you’ll be hard-pressed to find innovators and business tycoons that haven’t engaged in one form of mentorship or another along the way.
But what is mentorship in the business arena and why is it so important? And most importantly, how do you find a solid mentor to help guide you along the way? We’re here to break down the importance of mentorship in business and to demystify the process of finding someone you can look up to and learn from.
What is mentorship? Professional mentorship is a relationship between two individuals, one contributing and one receiving, usually consisting of a more seasoned or experienced individual giving of their time and knowledge in order to help further the career goals of their counterpart. Mentorship is mutually beneficial, in that the person receiving mentorship gains access to another person’s years of experiences and knowledge, whereas the contributing party gains valuable teaching and guiding skills.
How to find a mentor. Many times, it’s up to the one wishing to be mentored to seek out mentorship. If you find yourself in this position, consider the things you wish to learn. Think about the skills and expertise you want to become better at and find the person within your professional sphere that is in a similar position or has a particular skillset you’re interested in. Once you’ve pinpointed the right person, set up a meeting with them or take them out to lunch to discuss if they’d be open to a mentorship-style relationship.
Getting the most out of your mentorship. Once you’ve found an individual who is willing to take you under their wing, it’s important to set certain rules and boundaries in order to make sure both parties are mutually benefited. Some of these guidelines can include:
- Goals and expectations. What do you want to learn? How will you learn it? Consider the skills and knowledge that made you consider your mentor in the first place. Remember those key points when determining what you want to take away from the mentorship.
- Set boundaries. If working with a colleague, remember that first and foremost, your responsibilities are to your company. Setting boundaries will help ensure that you aren’t taking up too much of your mentor’s time and that you are still staying focused on the job you currently hold. You’ll want to be considerate of your mentor’s time and their preference of communication methods.
- Work and study. Your mentor will surely be a busy person, so take advantage of everything you’re learning from them by working on the new skills on your own time. Think of it as homework, preparing you for future courses and tests. Be prepared for each meeting by having done your share of research and homework.
- Guide the discussion. Even though you’re there to learn from your mentor, you should have valuable discussion points to add to the conversation. Always come with questions.
- Setting boundaries for yourself helps keep a mentor a mentor. Lines begin to blur when a mentor is also a co-worker and a boss and a friend. During your mentorship, your relationship should be focused on that.
Your mentor is giving you their time, talent, and resources. The final thing you should do is to make sure your mentor feels appreciated. If they’re an entrepreneur, send as many clients their way as possible. Review their business online. Give them a glowing recommendation on LinkedIn. Take them out to dinner and pick up the tab. Finally, sit down and write them a heartfelt letter of appreciation for all they’ve done to help you succeed. Keep in touch with your mentor, even if your career takes