Success doesn't happen in a vacuum. No matter how smart, driven, and accomplished you are, you can only get so far on your own. Whether it's noodling on the guitar, learning a foreign language, working on your golf swing, or building an 8-figure business, you'll achieve more under the wing of a seasoned pro than by trying to figure it all out on your own. Warren Buffett might have experienced a very different trajectory without Benjamin Graham and Charlie Munger. (And, to take it full circle, the same goes for Bill Gates without Warren Buffett!)
Here's why mentors are a must in business - and how you can connect with one.
What's a Business Mentor, Exactly?
A business mentor is someone who's seen and done it all before. They're established in their career or industry and are often at the point where they've taken a step back from the day-to-day grind and are looking to give back to the business community. They serve as a trusted confidante for promising, similarly minded professionals or entrepreneurs, giving mentees a leg up in terms of experience, connections, and knowledge.
A business mentor can:
- Offer real-world, non-textbook experiences
- Advise you on new or tricky business challenges
- Give input on an idea or strategy
- Connect you with the right people
- Put you in touch with opportunities and resources
- Help you see the big picture for your career or business
- Vouch for you and be a point of social proof
- Help with knowledge transfer and leadership development
- Have your back when things don't go your way
- Help you be more successful in your business or career
Business mentors are usually selective about who they work with. Usually, they'll seek out someone whose goals or outlook align with their own. Some work Once they've found the right mentee, they'll work with you long-term to help you get the results you're after - and typically for free.
A Business Mentor Is Not a Business Coach
One thing to note: a business mentor is not the same thing as a business coach, although there's overlap between the two. A mentor emphasizes your own professional development and growth and takes a more holistic, long-term approach. A business coach focuses on performance. Their goal is to help you or your business define and meet a set target. They tend to be short- or medium-term in their outlook, and they'll usually charge for their services. A coaching relationship is usually led by the coach and is built around a specific set of questions, goals, skills, or deliverables, mentorships are usually mentee-led, and are offered on a flexible, needs-based basis.
Finding the Right Business Mentor
So how do you go about finding a business mentor? Good news: mentors are everywhere. Potential mentors hang out at networking events, online via LinkedIn or Twitter, small business development centers, industry centers, and organizations like SCORE. Depending on the circles you move in, you might even find a great mentor through your family and friends. Sometimes a mentor might even approach you.
But finding a mentor vs the right mentor are two different things. Here's what to look for when scouting for a mentor:
- A passion for your industry and work
- Relevant experience in your field
- Empathy and listening skills
- Time to commit to a long-term mentorship
- The ability to push you beyond your comfort zone
- Similar values, goals, and communication styles
Remember, a business mentorship is a two-way street. Your mentor should also be getting something out of the relationship - perhaps a new connection, a protege, or a line into the cutting edge of their field. It helps to be driven, open to feedback, and willing to take on new challenges. When both parties are benefiting, the mentorship will flourish.
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