Sunday, 18 September 2011

Mentors – why and how to get them

I firmly believe in the benefits of having mentors and have tried to build relationships with one of two, from each phase of my career (i.e. leaders from various former roles and professors from my MBA).

Why find mentors:
A mentor is someone who is an experienced individual who is able to provide guidance based on their wealth of experience. They’re able to help you avoid potential pitfalls by providing a “been there, done that and this is what I’ve learned” perspective.

One other benefit of mentors is that they’re likely to be well connected (i.e. their friends/colleagues are in positions of power), which is useful for a large number of reasons.

How to get a mentor:
The approach I’ve taken to gaining mentors is simply to ask if they’d like to catch up in person or over the phone, to discuss career development or creative problem solving. I make sure to book meetings or calls with them at a frequency that is determined by their seniority. If I have a mentor that is only a few rungs higher than me in business, then I might catch up with them monthly, whereas someone who is a leader in industry, I might only catch up with them briefly, once every three months.

If you’ve read my post on the right way to network, you’ll know to make sure that the relationship provides value for both parties. If a mentor offers you advice, be sure to consider it and if it’s appropriate, act on it. In my experience, mentors like to know that they’re being listened to and that they aren’t wasting their time.

I have noticed that the best mentors often had excellent mentors themselves when they first built their businesses or made progress in their careers. Many senior leaders, provided the time commitment is small, would love to take someone under their wing to "pay forward" the support they received when they were just starting out.

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