What should I look for in a mentor?
12 women from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) answers the question posed by reader, Candice B., on what startup founders should look for in a mentor.By Guest 20 Jul, 2012
Look for compatibility
“Finding a mentor takes more than just asking the most successful person possible for advice. Finding someone you can really learn from and who you’re comfortable learning from is 90 percent of mentorship. How do you like to receive constructive criticism? How often and how long would you like to talk with your mentor? Being open about these things up front will help you find the best match.”
Always prioritize availability
“Make sure that any mentors that you find are actually going to have time to mentor you. A mentor isn’t much help at all if they don’t have the time to get to know you. Without a deep knowledge of who you are, what your goals are and what you want to learn, it’s going to be difficult for them to give you good advice.”
Honesty and passion
“It might be tempting to seek out people who have a specific reputation or a specific set of contacts, etc., but at the end of the day what matters is that you have a trusting relationship with a person that you truly click with. Find someone who has a passion for you personally or for the problem you’re solving, and who is willing to give you advice that doesn’t always benefit them.”
“It takes a great deal of courage to open up to a mentor about what you’re thinking and feeling and how things are really going with your business. Look for someone who is willing and able to consistently communicate with you either by meeting, by phone or by email. This will avoid you feeling hurt or disrespected by a lack of response to your requests for help or advice.”
Accountability is key
“Challenge yourself to find a mentor who won’t just give you general advice and encouragement, but will give you specific assignments and hard deadlines. Many types of mentors can be helpful, but a mentor who keeps you accountable will move you forward the fastest.”
Chemistry, caring and clarity
“Were there mutual (non-sexual) admiration sparks flying the first time you had a conversation? Is this person invested in your success? Can this person help you break down barriers and reach your goals? The best mentors are the ones who you click with immediately, who care about you, and who help you solve problems and reach new levels of clarity in your life and business.”
Pick from another industry
“Pick a mentor who can help you grow your business, not just cheerlead. Someone from another industry who knows little about your industry can give you ideas that you (and your competition) may not have considered. He will also ask questions that require you to think about your business from the perspective of someone who does not understand it. Being able to see from the outside in can be crucial.”
Someone who gets specific
“I’ve found it incredibly valuable to have mentors who do more than just advise on strategy, but who are willing to share specifics from their own business. Being able to go behind-the-scenes on winning or losing campaigns is something that you just can’t get without that personal relationship.”
Common core values
“If you’re all about the money and your mentor sees social enterprise as the end-all-be-all (or vice versa), it’s going to be harder to find the right way forward for your business. Your mentor can easily offer advice that won’t work for you if your core values don’t match.”
What niche do they fill?
“In every mentoring relationship there should be a clear definition of what kind of mentor they will be. Are they giving career advice? Relationship advice? Financial advice? Some mentors may cover a variety of topics, others will be very specific on one. That is why it’s important to have more than one mentor. The more advice you can get and sort through, the better off you’ll be.”
A Similar career path
“The ideal mentor is someone who is in a similar career path to your own — someone who can help you navigate the ups and downs of your industry and career. Your mentor should be someone who isn’t exactly the same as you, but that can provide constructive criticism and new ideas to help you and your business grow.”
Wait for wisdom
“While it’s important to have mentors with deep subject-matter expertise, life experience is also a crucial trait. The best mentors are those who have “seen it all” and “been there, done that,” so they can help you avoid mistakes they might have made.”
This post was originally published on YEC as 12 YEC Women On The Traits of Great Mentors.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.