When I was in grade school, we took a field trip to an aquarium in a neighbouring big city. Since the place was a far cry from our tiny school, my teacher implemented the famous ‘buddy system.’ Though we started the trip with our hands clasped firmly together praying we didn’t fall into the shark tank, as time went on, we all gained more confidence and began to loosen our grip.
I think you know where this is going. Mentorship is really just a grown-up buddy system.
Starting your career can feel similar to leaving the comfort of your small school to visit an overwhelming aquarium. Finding and maintaining the right mentoring relationship can help foster your professional growth. Business mentors help you shape the career you truly desire and can open doors to various jobs, promotions and connections.
By finding a mentor, you can truly enjoy the vast ‘ocean’ the business world has to offer.
What is a business mentor?
At the root of it, business mentors are like personal career cheerleaders. They are someone you look up to who shares how they accomplish their goals and gives you feedback and advice.
Business mentors should make you feel comfortable and always have your best interest at heart. In addition to professional guidance, a mentor also maintains a friendly and supportive relationship with you and overall, acts as a friend.
How do you find a mentor?
So the next question is, how do you find one? Lucky for you, figuring out how to find a mentor can be as easy as following this 7-step process.
1. Find someone you admire in your field
This person is someone you want to be like when you “grow up.” Although it is valuable to find someone who has the job you want, it is equally important that this person has the set of strengths and skills that you desire.
A great place to start looking for a potential mentor is your existing professional circle. Former bosses, professors, co-workers or even family friends. If you can’t find someone here, maybe those connections know someone who could be a good fit!
2. Do your research
Although it may feel uncomfortable to dig into someone’s online presence you don’t yet know, learning more about your mentor prospects can help you better predict the success of the partnership.
For example, you found a business owner who is accomplishing all of your desired goals in your target market. However, after visiting their website, you discover that they are less environmentally conscious than you want to be. This could cause tension down the line. Finding the right business mentor is a lot like dating, you need to make sure your goals and values align.
3. Start the conversation
Now that you’ve found the right person, it’s time to initiate the conversation. Don’t ask the person to “be your business mentor” right away. Instead, propose an informal meeting such as coffee or grabbing lunch. When meeting, discuss your goals and aspirations to see if it’s a good match.
To ensure that you cover all your bases and don’t get too nervous, prepare some questions. You want to collect all the information you need to make the right choice.
4. Evaluate after the meeting
Once you’ve met up, ask yourself if you think you could benefit from their expertise and advice.
Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel that a connection was made, you can let the relationship go. Why waste both of your time?
5. Create a follow-up plan
If all goes well, great! Now’s the time to devise a plan.
Start by thanking your prospective business mentor for their time via email. This is also a great time to mention that you'd like to meet up again. If they respond, offer to work around their schedule and get a date on the calendar.
6. Let the relationship grow naturally
After you’ve made your plan, don’t stress too much. Business mentorships are supposed to be casual, so don’t try to force it. Just look at it like any other new friendship; it takes time and requires building trust and respect.
7. Commit to the process
Business mentorships require consistent time and effort. Don’t wait for your mentor to initiate.Find ways to solidify your bond to ensure that your relationship lasts and continues to strengthen.
After you’ve become the business mentor master, why stop at one? If you’ve got the time, consider establishing a group of mentors. No one mentor can help you achieve all of your goals. Having various mentors at your disposal can further bulk up your career tool belt and help you build the career of your dreams.