The romantic portrayal of successful entrepreneurs as self-made individuals can be a little misleading. Few have succeeded without some important mentorship along the way.
The importance of having a guide through the rocky and competitive landscape of business can be invaluable along your journey, and many successful people relish the chance to share their wisdom with aspirational individuals looking to advance their careers.
What is a mentor?
A mentor is a person who shares their experience and offers advice to someone who is at an earlier stage of the career path than themselves. In business, mentors could be successful entrepreneurs, leaders, or even former colleagues or bosses. They might be someone you bounce ideas off, help you make the best decisions, give you a different perspective, or even connect you to important contacts that can open doors to business opportunity.
How can they help me?
It’s important to remember that every mentor-mentee relationship is different- the time given, the means of communication, and the knowledge shared depends on who the mentor is, and how you think they can help you the most. It is something that’s good to establish when you first make contact with a prospective mentor.
On the other hand, often these relationships develop organically- asking for a small piece of advice on a certain matter can evolve into more regular contact, and an informal friendship in which guidance and experience is shared. Remember, experienced entrepreneurs have walked a well-trodden path towards business success, and their perspective can help you avoid some of the many pitfalls that business people fall in to.
Where can I find one?
One of the slightly understated benefits of a higher education is that you establish a network of like-minded professionals, and others working in your industry. During your studies is a great time to start thinking about finding a mentor who can help you develop your career after graduation.
This could be professors, tutors, or other experienced industry professionals within the university. Further afield, using LinkedIn to connect with others in your industry can be a great way to establish the connections that lead to mentorship.
As many successful entrepreneurs will testify to, being a mentor is extremely rewarding, and more often than not they’ll be more than happy to share their knowledge and help guide the next generation of entrepreneurs and business people.
Don’t be afraid to ask. Even if they have to politely decline due to time restrictions, there’s a good chance that they’ll put you in touch with someone who might help. Look for someone who epitomizes your idea of success, and will challenge you to maximize your potential.
Richard Branson is arguably one of the most well-known advocates of business mentorships, often stressing in his interviews the importance mentors played in defining his success. His mentor Sir Freddy Lake (founder of Lake Airways) was key in helping the entrepreneur establish Virgin Airlines in 2004.
Steve Jobs famously mentored Mark Zuckerberg in the early days of Facebook as the young computer programmer was trying to establish himself and the company. Mentorship is not confined to the business landscape either- further afield, Woody Guthrie also served as a mentor to music legend Bob Dylan, who often played the folk legend his songs for feedback.
Getting a business mentor could be the key to establishing yourself and maximizing your potential. Whether you’re a student, or already an experienced career professional, there is always someone who can share their experience, and help give you advice to advance your career in the right direction. And you don’t need to just have one! The more people you have to turn to for valuable advice, the more perspectives you’ll gain, and more chance you’ll have at achieving your business goals.
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