Today’s entrepreneur touts that connecting with active mentors makes them seven times more likely to raise capital and three-and-a-half times more likely to attract customers according to the Startup Genome Report published by Compass in 2013. Wow! Those numbers are impressive. But, what if you are not an entrepreneur? Perhaps you are a banker, a non-profit leader or a health care worker. Would mentors have a similar impact on your career success? My hypothesis is yes.
I have been gathering data for a workshop that I will be presenting focused on the differences between mentoring, sponsoring and networking and why all of us should heighten our awareness of how each of these “actions” are impacting our success. Most define mentoring as a mutually agreed upon relationship that is for a defined period of time and for a specific purpose. Although mentoring is seen as a more formal relationship, many acknowledge that their experience has been more passive. Do you have people in your life that you look up to and follow in their career path, hoping one day you will be as successful as they are or perhaps avoid some of their mistakes? Perhaps you have never even told them they are mentoring you. Or, you just didn’t think of it in those terms. I think you might be surprised how many mentor/mentee relationships fall into this category.
Being a mentor is hard work. You assume risk in a relationship by agreeing to “guide” another person who at times may disagree with your perspective. As I ponder my mentor relationships, I am so grateful for the risk so many have taken, on my behalf, to make me a better business owner, leader and person. I have been fortunate to experience mentors who have challenged me, been my cheerleader and educated me in my industry as well as in general business. I have needed different types of mentors through my business journey. Some of them I literally walked up to and asked, “Would you be willing to mentor me?” Others, I have watched from afar and then treated them to breakfast or lunch just to ask a few questions. I am frequently asked, “How do I choose a mentor?” That is a great question, but I would ask another first. Where are you going on your career path? If you can answer this question it will bring clarity to the types of people, with certain skills sets that you need to connect with to help you get where you want to go. This may seem obvious, but as I prepare for this workshop, I am intrigued that many have difficulty articulating this very answer.
So, to all the mentors out there, here are three tips to make you more effective:
- Listen more.
- Always be truthful.
- Commit to learning as much from your mentee as they expect to learn from you.
And to all of you looking for a mentor, take the time to reflect and clarify where you want to go in your career. When guidance is needed, don’t be afraid to ask for it. There are so many great leaders that are ready to assist.