Any successful entrepreneur, almost without exception, will tell you that when they started out, they had (and may even still have) at least one mentor.
What does a mentor do?
Having someone available to support you as you start up your own business is valuable beyond measure because:
- Their success can inspire you to aim for things you might never have dreamed of on your own.
- If they’re willing to share, you can learn from mistakes they’ve made, rather than having to make them yourself.
- You can bounce ideas off them and get valuable feedback that helps you fine-tune your vision.
- They can teach you things you probably won’t learn from a course, like how to navigate office politics and who to talk to if you want to find out what’s really going on.
- They can introduce you to people who otherwise might not have given you the time of day.
What to look for in a mentor
Finding the right person to work with is critical. Ideally:
- They should be successful in their own right.
- They should have substantial experience in your industry, or in a particular aspect of it.
- Their personality should complement yours, so they can help you with things you find challenging.
- They should be willing and open to working with and sharing their experience with you.
How to find one
There are several ways to connect with potential mentors in your industry:
- Attend talks and networking events
- Keep up to date with publications by industry experts
- Ask people you trust for recommendations
When you’ve identified someone you’d like to work with, approach them, introduce yourself and let them know you’re looking for a mentor. If their response is encouraging, ask them if they might be open to mentoring you. If so, set up another time to chat further about the specifics of how that might work. If they aren’t available themselves, ask if they can recommend someone else who might be.
Bear in mind that you may need to “interview” a couple of potential mentors before you find the right one. The effort is well worth your while though, and in a few years time, you’ll be able to look back and see the difference they made in your personal rise to success.