Every successful businessperson has a mentor, or teacher of sorts, to thank for their success. Well-trodden examples include Mark Zuckerberg – who has Apple founder Steve Jobs to thank for the runaway growth of his social media empire – and Bill Gates, who was coached and supported early in his tech career by investment giant Warren Buffett.
Receiving mentorship within your professional industry can be a crucial entry-point into a new career, and otherwise a powerful way to grow your skills and experience. Mentorship can also be crucial in opening doors to progression, whether through networks or publicity. But finding a mentor isn’t always as easy as asking your nearest business leader. What does it take to find a mentor, and how can you foster a positive and effective relationship with one to better your career?
Finding a Mentor
There are various ways in which a professional can find an appropriate mentor to help guide their career development. Typically, the best mentor-mentee relationships are formed through networking. Pleasant conversation and a shared interest in a specific part of the industry is often all it takes to begin a promising relationship; heading to a networking event with some names in mind can help focus efforts.
For those less inclined to mingle, there are mentorship schemes available that enable younger professionals to get matched with industry leaders for one-on-one advice.
Fostering a Positive Relationship
Ask the Right Questions
Your mentor will have a wealth of knowledge for you to tap, but that knowledge needs to be accessed the right way. Your mentor may have sage advice to give you regarding key steps, but there is much more for you to learn – if you ask the right questions. Don’t content yourself with the small talk; prepare some questions, and take note of the answers.
Honesty is a real virtue in professional networks, and one well worth honing early on. But staying honest with your mentor guarantees you the best advice and support. Artificially inflating your CV or achievements will distort the advice you receive, and dilute its effectiveness. Likewise, underplaying your emotions or skills can simply slow your growth.
Your mentor is likely providing advice and support for very little in return, especially if your relationship has developed as a result of networking. A little gesture of thanks can go a long way; chocolate gifts for teachers always go down well, and a little hamper of sweet treats as thanks for some valuable guidance will serve to keep you in their thoughts – and their good books.
A mentor-mentee relationship goes both ways. If you do not return much to the relationship, it will quickly falter. Remaining a constant and consistent presence, both in conversation and in general, can serve you well. Take note of personal events in your mentor’s life – or, in other words, pay attention. This way, a warm personal relationship can develop alongside a professional one.