Posted inEntrepreneurship

Don’t Be Shy: Having a Great Mentor Will Boost Anyone’s Career


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Working with a mentor offers you the opportunity to grow and speed up the learning curve in your personal development and career. Working with someone who has been there and done that in the area you wish to achieve, that is willing to share what they know, is a gift.

Mentees are grateful to learn from someone with more experience and mentors get fulfilled by giving back their time and energy to help share what they know to help move someone else’s life forward. Most mentors have had their own too. Listening and absorbing what the mentor is encouraging can sometimes be challenging as a lot of us prefer to learn things in our own way. Whether it was a mentor feeding me information and loading up my iPad with business books, or former CEOs of private and public companies placing me under their wing, without the help of mentors, I would not have been able to expedite my learning and be open to the opportunities that have presented themselves to me so far in my career.

How you communicate and engage with your mentor will help determine the success and evolution of the relationship for both sides to learn and grow. Having worked with mentors throughout my career and also being a mentor myself, I am familiar with the dynamics of both giving and taking advice. I am guilty of being a little bossy at times if I am frustrated, but I have also grown the most personally when my mentors have been direct and a little tough when they needed to be with me.

Working with a mentor successful in the area you wish to excel in is humbling as you realize how little you know or how much more practice is still ahead of you. Mentors are able to see trouble in advance and their concerns are usually valid so it is important to listen to their point of view regardless of what action you take. When you are in a funk and justifying your bad decisions, it is nice to have a coach to help you get out of your own way. Good mentors are not judgmental and can help you make smarter decisions about your future.

New beginnings lead to new opportunities; one should not be afraid to embrace them. It is encouraging to associate with people who have accomplished goals they wish to achieve or that have endured some relatable adversity that they overcame themselves. Their support can be very helpful during times of transition especially when they have been helping push you to change and grow.

Be wary of jadedness 

Loyalty and determination are not always positive traits. Sometimes you need someone to get in your face a little to let you know that something isn’t working and it is time to move on. When you are finally done chasing your own tail, your mentor can politely remind you that it was painful to watch but happy you are ready to move on.

However, mentees never have to apply all the lessons, beliefs or values a mentor endorses—though you should pay attention to how they think and behave if you wish to achieve similar goals. Also, if they have just got through a rough patch or had a bad experience then their advice can be jaded so discern accordingly.

The mentor’s role is to help you overcome your challenges, listen and offer their take based on what they know from their own experiences. I used to be defensive when I was being critiqued, now I view it as the vehicle for me to improve my performance and I ask for it. Mentors can be famous for I told you so’s but we all have to make some mistakes ourselves before we are ready to apply their advice moving forward.

Respect your mentor 

It is important that the mentor articulates what worked for them and how they got to where they wanted to go via stories and experiences versus telling the mentee directly what they think they should be done.

No one likes being told what to do, especially entrepreneurs. A mentor sharing what they would do in a situation would be more influential.

Mentors often turn into good friends as you confide very personal information with them requiring a certain level of trust and comfort. Remembering the origins of the relationship reminds you to listen to what they say. Sometimes a mentor is there simply to offer support and encouragement to move on when something isn’t working.

People are willing to mentor 

It is surprising how open people are to sharing their own story while helping encourage you to develop your own. A lot of people are willing to mentor. I have been fortunate to find people who voluntarily want to tell me everything they know to help me try to get ahead. I also mentor now too and feel good about sharing the things I have learned in hopes of saving someone else the hassle of having to eat some of the harsh lessons that are out there.

I have been asked before how I find my mentors. Networking in new circles, going to events where there are successful people from your industry, continuing to make new friends, or joining an organization that will match you with one. A mentor can be disguised as a more mature friend that evolves to be someone you listen to that has taken a vested interest in helping you get ahead.

When the time is right, pay it forward and offer someone else your time. Volunteering as a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters and Futurepreneur, has allowed me to learn a lot from my matches as a mentor myself. In most cases, these types of relationships are reciprocal.

Learning from other people gives you short cuts and provides inspiration. Mentors may change at different stages of your career as you grow. You may not get there on your own without one—though some people can mentor themselves, I have needed mine.

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