When choosing to become an entrepreneur, rest assured that challenges are guaranteed. Matters that were once handled by others, now become part of your direct scope. Self-motivation becomes a necessity to keep on going, as new challenges arise on a daily basis. Sometimes, self-doubt creeps up on you, and you question if you can even pull off the grand vision that you set forth. In such instances, seeking the guidance of a mentor can help take you from good to great.
However, mentor-mentee relationships need to be closely managed in order to be fruitful. A mentor, defined as a trusted counselor or coach who volunteers their time, can provide the support required for professional growth and motivation. Often, mentors can help entrepreneurs and professionals reach heights that they cannot achieve alone.
Accordingly, we have put together a few tips to nurture one of the most definitive professional relationships – for both the mentor and mentee to benefit.
1. Choosing your mentor
Choosing your mentor is the most integral step and finding the right mentor can be quite tricky. Mentors can be sought through professional organizations and networks which you are a member of, or be part of the company in which you work. You can even turn to a person who you encountered in your professional career for mentorship. Reaching out to mentors on online channels may limit response rates, unless you have a connection to them.
Research the potential mentor, their past experience and professional achievements and try to gauge if they are the right fit for you. Finding someone who has been where you are today is important, as they will be able to add more value. Look for someone that has experience in the area where you are facing challenges, keep an eye for diversity, especially with their skillset. You want to find someone who will challenge you and optimize your strengths, and also provide guidance in areas where you are struggling.
2. Defining their role
After finding your mentor and agreeing on working together, it is important to define what you expect from them. Their role in terms of scope to be covered, frequency of communication and meetings, areas of guidance etc. are important to define up front. Mentors are typically established professionals that dispense their time through mentorship as a way to give back. As such, their full schedules need to be kept in mind, when requesting their guidance on the long-run.
Mentors typically provide support and guidance, as well as act as a trusted confidante. Expect your mentor to give you the facts objectively, and receive it well when they do. Remember that mentors volunteer their time to give back to the community, and also learn through the process. You can opt to offer them something in return that they may be seeking.
3. Set your goals
Being mentored is not a passive experience. Rather, it requires the mentee to be active and set goals and nurture the relationship. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your mentor when you have a burning question, request a meeting or involve them in professional plans.
4. Open, honest communication
Relationships will only prosper, if they are founded on open and honest communication. Interpersonal skills will help both sides get the best out of the mentorship experience, and hopefully, sustain it for the long-term.
Alongside having honest discussions, make sure you plan ahead to manage expectations. Set agendas for upcoming meetings, structure meetings to ensure they are efficient and make sure you follow up and send updates after each meeting.
5. Give back if you can
Whilst mentors voluntarily choose to coach professionals, they also are on a continuous growth trajectory, no matter how senior they are. Manage the mentor-mentee bond closely, and just like any relationship, giving back and showing gratitude is important. Find out what your mentor is working on, and send over an interesting article related to it. Recommend a good book. Or even invite them to company-related functions.