Mentors are one of the most valuable resources a business man or entrepreneur can tap into. They come with considerable industry knowledge, possess specific skills and, most importantly, retain the general business savvy that only extensive experience can yield. They are an authentic guiding hand that can help shun mistakes, lead to successful decision-making and contribute to one's personal development. Mel Carson, founder and principal strategist at Delightful Communications, shared an insightful article containing five tips for finding and keeping a good mentor.
1. Never be afraid to ask!
If you have found someone that you think would be a good mentor for you, don't hesitate to ask - but don't think that the question is as simple as "do you want to be my mentor?". Most managers who are accomplished, feel great about helping others reach success, especially if they see potential. But asking them to coach you out of the blue simply does not work. Mentoring works best when the individuals involved "click". This means that they greatly esteem each other, recognize each other's potential and feel a natural will to cooperate and grow. Some scientists call it chemistry. To start off, it might help to sporadically ask the person you wish to be your mentor for guidance in the resolution of issues that come your way. This will engender a progressive constructive relationship. You shouldn't just propose yourself as a protege: it has to be somewhat natural.
2. Ask right and be mentor worthy
“Anyone giving up their time to help you with your professional life and career is going to want to make sure their time is being spent wisely,” wrote Lisa Williams. Make sure that your potential mentor understands who you are in terms of ambitions, values and working style. This is best shown through actions rather than words: always be on time, ask smart questions and be concise - most mentors are busy and have no time to lose.
3. Choose someone with a different perspective
Focus on finding a mentor who will always try to share an alternative approach to your own or make you aware of potential issues you might not have considered. This environment of support and critical feedback can be established by finding someone who is different but not too distant in terms of opinion.
4. Look for more than one
Nowadays protegees don't seek out a single individual to guide their professional careers and personal development. Mentoring has recently become a process in which the mentee seeks direction from a network of people, know as the developers. This is because a single individual might not have all the answers you are seeking. It is important to leverage on the knowledge of different people in order to define a more wholesome approach with which you shape your goals and ultimate decisions.
5. Try to reciprocate
Mentors are typically accomplished individuals who desire success for others for the sake of personal satisfaction. So it is important that your mentor perceives how he or she engendered a long-lasting, positive change in your life. Although mentors don't usually expect anything return, don't forget to consider that a mentor and protege relationship should never just be a one-way affair. If it is so, it could deteriorate over time. Try to make the experience fruitful for your mentor by understanding or asking if there is anything you could do in exchange.