Let’s be clear, I am NOT talking about someone who is paid to work with you (i.e., coach) but instead someone who volunteers to do so. A mentor is an experienced, trusted, or knowledgeable professional who can act as a guide, advisor, teacher, or sounding board for a younger, less experienced individual.
Entrepreneurs use mentors to help them manage start-up operations, gain local visibility and connect them to key resources. Young professionals use mentors to build effective relationships, manage political undercurrents, and gain meaningful career advice. Mentoring has been found to accelerate learning while increasing productivity; hence it is often used as part of a top talent leadership program.
Rather than look for one great mentor, create a diverse network of mentors from within and outside of your organization. It’s rare that a mentor will come looking for you unless your organization has a formal mentoring program so would-be protégé’s need to be proactive.
Here is how you can create an effective mentoring relationship:
- Know what you need from a mentor(s) based on your goals, desires, dreams, and future aspirations.
- Invest in the process as if it were a job search: match your needs to others’ qualifications.
- Look far and wide to find the right mentor(s). Try LinkedIn, Professional Associations, Conferences, SCORE, articles.
- Select mentors who are committed to your success and who see your relationship as mutually beneficial: Both parties gain value!
- Hold each other accountable for maintaining the relationship and making progress: Regular, substantive discussions.
Periodically, re-assess if both parties still find the relationship valuable or make changes as needed.