Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series on mentorship.
A mentor can be the key to your growth as an entrepreneur, but it’s important that you find the right person to develop a successful mentor/mentee relationship, keeping in mind that some of the best of these relationships are informal.
How to find a mentor
Start by thinking about your business goals and identifying a few leaders who have your dream job. They can be individuals who work in your organization or people in the community you admire. Then, ask them to meet you for a casual lunch or for coffee a few times to see how you connect. Remember, selecting a mentor is a lot like a job interview—you should be qualifying your mentor to be sure that it is a good match for both of you.
Once you have found one or two individuals with whom you feel comfortable, begin to build a relationship with them. Schedule informational interviews with them, shadow them for a few hours to see how they work and interact with others, and intern or cross train with those you can learn the most from.
Whether or not you establish a mentoring relationship, be sure to follow up with everyone who shares their time with you. Reflect on your experience and let them know what you learned from them. Always be grateful and appreciative--this goes a long way!
Where to find a mentor
SCORE: The Buffalo-Niagara chapter offers more than 70 experienced and skilled business mentors for face-to-face, email, and telephone counseling. All counseling is free and confidential.
Executives you know: Although high-profile individuals may have less time to engage in a formal mentor relationship, you can learn a lot without direct one-on-one interaction. Observe how they work, and ask good questions if you get the opportunity. Marcus Anderson, a TedX speaker and author on adversity, says, “The best lesson learned from my mentors was not something they told me, it was what they showed me. Seeing my mentors put in the hours while working with passion and purpose was the greatest lesson I could ever learn.”
College: Your alma mater is an ideal place to network. Contact your alumni services office to connect with fellow alumni, or use a tool like LinkedIn to identify alumni in companies you aspire to work for.
You are likely to have many mentors in your life. As your career changes, your needs change as well, and you will want to find other individuals who can teach you along the way. And, ideally, you will become a mentor for others, as well, paying what you learned forward to help develop the next generation of successful leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners.