How to Find Your Mentor (and why you need one)

No matter who you are or how good you think you are, a mentor can be an invaluable asset to your personal and professional success.

What do Google’s Larry Page, Virgin’s Richard Branson and Apple’s Steve Jobs all have in common? They all received guidance from mentors. Yes – even the legendary Apple founder needed a little help, advice and support from time to time.

Belief is so important to mentoring. American author and businessman Zig Ziglar once said, ‘A lot of people have gone much further than they thought they could simply because someone else believed they could.’

Ask any truly successful business person and, if they are honest about it, they will almost certainly admit to having benefited from the advice of a mentor at some point in their career. It’s a big part of why there are so many prosperous family businesses – parents mentor their children to emulate (or even exceed), their own success!

Mentoring is often confused, mainly with coaching. One of the key differences between mentoring and coaching is simple: mentors give advice and suggest solutions.

From this simple fact, it is easy to see why finding the right mentor can often make or break the process. It really is important – so choose wisely.

Finding the right mentor

A good mentor is someone who agrees to speak truthfully, but constructively, about weaknesses and problems. A person who will not shy away from discussing emotionally charged issues. The mentor is a critical friend who, more often than not, is of a more senior level to the mentee. They should also be on-hand to listen, ready with considered advice, able to provide the mentee with support and willing to share the benefit of their experience.

One crucial aspect is selecting someone whose skills and experience complement the mentee’s own. It’s essential that the partnership is between two individuals who can also connect with each other on a personal level. So actually liking one another is a good place to start!

If you're a new manager, check-out the blog on making the leap from teammate to manager!

Both parties need to appreciate that they are committing for the long-term. Mentoring needs to be available on an ongoing basis, with meetings often arranged at the last minute if the need arises. It’s a very real obligation – so neither party should go in to the process if they aren’t prepared to give their all.

That said, there is an immense amount of mutual benefit to be had – and hopefully some fun times too!

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