Whether you have begun your way up the corporate ladder and are looking for someone to guide you through the ‘jungle’ or if you are still at school or college and need a helping hand to get you through an up-coming exam or coach you through a project, when you are looking for a mentor you should try to find somebody that you find personally inspirational; someone to steer you through the entrepreneurial process and provide you with the intellectual or financial leverage you need to reach your goal.
In the words of a wise man, “Leverage is the reason that some people become rich (and successful) and others do not”.
Look for the kind of person who you would choose for your role model; someone to respect and admire who has the experience in the fields and topics you need and will devote the time to share their knowledge with you.
Mentors must have the ability to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. They need to have a hands on approach and to have gone through the same experiences and processes which you are now facing. It is not the job of a mentor to do your work for you; rather to ensure that you are fully equipped with the correct tools to succeed on your own.
One of the most important points to consider is whether or not you share the same personal ethos and standards. Particularly for the younger protégés, it is all too easy to be psychologically influenced by your mentor, and may find yourself adopting a bad work ethic and attitude.
For older individuals who are being mentored in a commercial environment, credibility is everything, and if your mentor doesn’t have it, you won’t either. Warren Buffett has said, “Of all the billionaires I have known, money just brings out the basic traits in them. If they were jerks before, they are simply jerks with billions of dollars.”
How to Locate your Mentor
There are a few basic strategies you can employ when looking for a Mentor:
1. Try the personal approach. If there is someone you click with at school, college or in the office, just ask them if they would be prepared to help you. As long as they meet your criteria there shouldn’t be a problem.
2. Use tools such as audios, books and press releases by those you admire; attend seminars where they will be talking.
3. Your educational provider or business may have an internal mentoring program in which you could enroll. If not, consider options such as Rich Dad Coach or The Apprentice for a more professional approach.
4. You could follow inspirational characters through the media and track their business moves online and through speeches.
For those who are looking for academic mentoring, it is most effective to have regular face to face contact with your provider. Before you start, ensure that they have the right experience for the type of leadership you need, that they are familiar to you and will be prepared to devote the time you require.
Mentoring can be a long term process although you may just want some help getting through a particular exam. Try not to leave it until you hit a crisis point and ensure that you have sourced the right mentor for you well in advance to allow you to develop a good working relationship.
Remember; their role is to help you to do the things required of you, not to do them for you. They are there to familiarize you with your chosen topic and enhance your learning process for when you are left on you own. A good mentor will have the ability to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their protégé and assist them in understanding the organization and structure of their subject.
Finding your Mentor at School or College
Many educators will have their own mentoring facilities which you can take advantage of; just make sure that you ‘set out your stall’ and specify exactly what help you need and from whom. There will be a number of practical issues you will need to address to ensure that you make the right decision:
1. Is distance critical for you? Will you need to be in the same area for real time instruction with physical materials or will you be able to work through emails and the telephone?
2. If you are thinking about long distance mentoring, are time zones going to be an issue? If you will be relying on critical response speeds you will need to address this.
3. Although gender is not generally an issue, for some younger protégés it can be unsettling having a mentor of the opposite sex as the development of emotional attachments are not unusual.
4. Educational mentoring is usually found amongst older students in the school or college, friends, classmates or relatives. If you should go along the online mentoring route please ensure your personal safety by maintaining a wholly professional relationship and disclosing no personal information which could identify your address or age.”
Ian Wright works with Expert Market a leading provider of B2B products for small and medium sized businesses. When not at work he enjoys travel and running.
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