(Mentor (noun): An experienced and trusted advisor)
Sounds wonderful doesn’t it?
An experienced and trusted adviser – someone just on the other end of the phone to be there when you need to bounce an idea or to provide the answer to the big questions.. “I have an idea – am I being mad/unreasonable/expecting too much?”
And where might you find this person, this paragon of virtue?
A good bet is a local networking group. We found our home at Enterprise Connexions, a truly collaborative environment, where there is a plethora of wisdom and experience ready to be plucked from.
“So how do I find the right person, and then keep them?” I hear you say. A mentor/mentee relationship is like any other – it needs all the right circumstances to cultivate and survive and not just food, light and water (although bringing biscuits to your meetings will almost always smooth the way!)
I’ve put together some top tips to help you on your way:
- Seek out a mentor that fills your skills gap.
If you already very strong in certain areas, you don’t really need advice and support – perhaps YOU could be a mentor to someone else or look for a reciprocal relationship where you can help each other?
- You get what you put in
It’s not a passive arrangement. You can’t expect the mentor to lead everything; define your own goals, proactively organise (and then attend!) meetings, ask specific questions, find areas for feedback and take care of the relationship – basically put in the work.
You are asking for this person’s advice and support, their time and energy. You don’t have to agree with everything they say or use everything they tell you but take time to really listen, apart from ensuring that they feel like they are being valued, there will definitely be something in what they are saying that you can take away from.
- You can have more than one!
Often there will be more than one area that you could use some support in and that doesn’t have to be filled by one person, you can waste precious time and overlook amazing people.
- A successful relationship is a two-way street
They might be offering you their wisdom but there is value in what you are adding to the mix too, fresh ideas and a new perspective will often come about so don’t be afraid to participate in your meetings – collaboration is key!
And the last one – but no less important..
- Don’t be afraid to say goodbye.
There may come a time when they’ve done their job, they’ve offered you all they can and you’re ready to go it alone. Maybe you need a different kind of support or maybe you’re happy with where you are at. Make sure you say thank you and be honest, they will appreciate your candour, maybe they will already be feeling it too. Some relationships are only meant to be temporary but they are of no less value to us.