“Immaturity is the incapacity to use one’s intelligence without the guidance of another,” according to German philosopher Immanuel Kant.
Are you receiving the guidance of another in your small business? Are you giving guidance to someone else?
A mentor is someone who shares knowledge and advice to help another person grow academically or professionally. Mentors are people who have been where we are and have succeeded in a way in which we want to succeed. We look to mentors throughout our lives. They can include: parents, coaches, teachers and even parents with children older than our own kids. A career mentor is just as important.
In the workplace, this person could be another employee or a professional from outside of the company. In either case, the mentoring relationship benefits both the mentee and the mentor.
The word “mentor” comes from the name of a character in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. When he left to fight in the Trojan War, Odysseus placed Mentor in charge of his son Telemachus. When the goddess Athena visited Telemachus, she took the disguise of Mentor and encouraged the young man to search for his father.
A small business mentor may guide you through a work-related problem, analyze your work, provide advice on career growth and introduce you to other industry professionals. As the relationship, develops, a mentor also can become a trusted and valuable friend.
Mentors gain from this relationship, too. Many mentors find that their own confidence and job satisfaction increase when they help others. Mentors develop their communication skills and supervisory skills when they share their experience with others.
A Gallup research study last year revealed that the university students who reported that they had teachers who served as mentors were twice as likely to be “engaged with their work” and “satisfied in their overall well-being” than those who did not have mentors.
Let’s say you’re sold on the concept but that you do not know how to go about finding a mentor. Here are five steps to follow:
Define Your Ideal Mentor
What do you need help with? Are you looking for someone to help you network? Do you need want to know more about a specific industry? Would you like to develop a specific skill? By clarifying what you hope to derive from the mentoring relationship, you can narrow down your search.
Look for Potential Contacts
As a small business owner, you will need to look outside your workplace to find a mentor. Possible sources are trade associations, professional organizations, business groups such as your local Chamber of Commerce, men’s and women’s service clubs, non-profit organizations and college alumni groups.
Arrange a Meeting
Write to the potential mentor, asking to meet to discuss a possible mentoring relationship. Be clear that you are not looking for a job or a reference, and that you are not selling a product or a service. Share why you think that person would be a good mentor for you. Arrange to meet at a mutually convenient time and at a place that is comfortable for both of you. Set a specific timeframe for the meeting and keep to that time limit.
Write a note, thanking your potential mentor for his or her time and advice. If possible, share a specific piece of advice that you found most valuable. If the meeting went well from your perspective, arrange a second meeting.
Establish a Regular Meeting Time
After the two of you have established a rapport, you can set up a regular time to get together.
Here are a few resources to help you find a mentor:
- Micro Mentor is a free online mentor service that connects small business owners with business mentors.
- Sponsored by the Small Business Administration, SCORE matches small business owners with volunteer mentors who represent 62 industries.
- TiE Global uses a cloud-based platform for members to support each other in a mentoring relationship. http://tie.org/mentoring/
Don’t underestimate your own personal contact network for getting the word out about your need for a mentor. Let people know in your neighborhood, in your place of worship and in your social media network that you are in need of a mentor in your industry. Share details about what you are looking for, and the perfect mentor may come to you.
Finally, after you have experienced the benefits of being mentored, you will want to share that experience with others. Being a mentor will help stretch you personally and professionally, and you will have the satisfaction of helping others.