Friend. Confidant. Teacher. Coach. Role model.
These are just a few of the words used to describe one’s greatest asset in the business world – a mentor.
Mentors, wise and trusted advisors that they are, serve as the cornerstone to a successful young professional life. However, though business mentors are easily accessible, they are vastly underutilized. Whether it’s the hectic nature of a college schedule or a lack of business contacts, the influence and importance of business mentors in one’s personal and professional growth, especially young adults, should not be underestimated.
What does a mentor do?
Classes, work, extra-curricular activities, and going out with friends often keep students so busy that they have little time for anything else. However, many of the problems faced in these everyday tasks are exactly what a mentor can help one deal with. A mentor can give advice to help tackle these responsibilities and provide clarity to one’s personal and professional goals.
Rich Langdale, CEO of NCT Ventures, an operating and investment company, is a mentor and trainee alike. Having had the opportunity to benefit from mentors himself, he attempts to give back to the community and other individuals looking for guidance.
Langdale believes that "business mentors are of great importance because no one has all the answers. It is very valuable to assess your limitations and then seek out mentors in the areas where you need the most improvement and knowledge."
Mentors are excellent sounding boards. They provide listening ears, helping hands, and understanding and insight that are priceless.
But what’s in it for you?
Having a business mentor can help one understand the relevance of academic studies and the implications of career path moves. Moreover, it can help one gain exposure to people and resources within the business community and to get honest feedback about the business world and issues one may face.
What’s in it for them?
At the same time, business mentors benefit through their service. Many individuals who become mentors had mentors themselves and want to show their appreciation for the mentoring they had received. In addition, many mentors enjoy staying connected with students and the college atmosphere and learning about others. It also gives him/her a chance to guide someone who is interested in the same career field.
Where can mentors be found?
Professional associations (e.g. chamber of commerce, an academic related organization), professors, and non-profit and community organizations are good places to start.
Friends and family are also great initial contacts. Mentors can evolve through already existing relationships or through referrals to others.
Keep in mind that finding a mentor takes active involvement – you will have to seek them out. However, usually a simple and genuine request is all it takes to make the connection.
I’ve found mentor connections, now what?
Start by identifying the areas you need advice/coaching in. Once you identify what you need help with, you will be better able to seek out individuals that can complement those areas.
Moreover, there are certain qualities you can look for in a mentor to ensure an optimal mentor-trainee relationship.
Mark Stempel, a fee-only financial advisor who provides objective financial advice is a top business mentor, according to a recent selection by Mission Publishing. Stempel suggests to "search for a business mentor who is successful and enjoys teaching. Find someone who wants to share their knowledge and experience with others."
Other key qualities to look for include background similarities, career path objectives, and availability to mentor on a consistent basis.
Once found, a business mentor will undoubtedly become a close friend and teacher. If both the mentor and trainee do their part in nurturing the relationship, their efforts will be rewarded 10-fold – every time.
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