What you need to get the most out of your mentor

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Behind every successful woman, is a mentor. Someone who, at some point in their lives, helped guide them in achieving their own goals and dreams. Have you ever wondered how most world-leading entrepreneurs or business women became successful? The common myth is always that it was effortless –involving the least amount of struggle. That myth is never ever true.

At the beginning of a career, or at the start of a new business, you may find that you are unsure of how to and pursue your dream. You have the end goal in mind, but the process of putting it into effect and finding direction can be a huge mountain to climb. Although learning through experience on your own is important, getting guidance on how to pursue your goals intelligently can very helpful. Having a mentor who can help guide you through the stages of your career does make it a little bit easier.

First set your goals

Mentorship, whether in entrepreneurship or corporate, is based on the same core principles. It is to create a relationship for the betterment of you, the mentee and your mentor. It’s extremely important that both parties create an environment of learning and growth.

With this environment in mind, both your mentor and you should work together to set your mentorship goals for short, medium and long term. Giving yourselves goals helps in keeping the relationship from becoming too lax in achieving any kind of visible growth. It also sets the stage for a great working relationship. From my own experience, a good mentor also wants to see the goals you want to achieve. This helps them get a better view of how to can help you. One of the most important things a previous mentor taught me is the importance of putting your goals onto paper. And it works!

Goal-setting will give you the opportunity to identify where your life is life to be heading. In turn, goals and expectations give both you and your mentor a common understanding of what the relationship is meant to achieve.

Adding detail to your short, medium and long term goals will be beneficial in creating your career development plan. This plan can be used as a guide. It will allow you to communicate clearly what you want to achieve in a specified amount of time, and have your mentor to help you achieve those goals in the most focused way possible. Having a plan in place, and having a mentor guiding you through your growth process can help you grow. This will get you to where to where you want to be faster than you thought.

Then establish a relationship

In order to establish a good mentorship, and for you to be able to succeed in the industry of your choice, some important factors should be considered:

  • Receiving valuable advice: You receive valuable advice from your mentor. As the mentee, you gain insight from your mentor into your ideas. Not only that, you get help on using that advice as a guide to achieving your goals in the most efficient way.
  • Assistance with building strengths and overcoming weaknesses: As part of the goal-setting exercise between you and your mentor, you’ll need to discuss ways your mentor can help you overcome weaknesses and build strengths. Identifying your skills and competencies will help you know where your strengths lie.
  • New ways of thinking: A mentorship allows for a way to bounce ideas off each other and gives you an opportunity to discover new ways of thinking.

Win-win for both

A mentorship should be a win-win situation. Both parties should be fulfilled in the mentorship.  The mentorships that work are usually between people that want to make the relationship work. You will need to be engrossed in the growth of your career. And your mentor should have a sense of fulfillment from helping an up-and-coming young person. If it isn’t fulfilling both parties, then it makes no sense to waste each other’s time. A mentee and mentor need to find a formula that works for them, and stick to it.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a mentee is thinking that the mentorship is one-sided. Inasmuch as you approach a mentor to learn and grow, the same applies for your mentor as they too have goals to pursue. Just as you receive the chance to learn from a more experienced individual, your mentor will receive an opportunity to pass on what they’ve learned in life.

The mentorship advantage

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Sugar. Spice. And everything nice.

What do you need to be a successful entrepreneur? More than it takes to make the Powerpuff Girls. Some say passion, commitment, and willpower are top of the list —all very true. I believe to be a successful entrepreneur you need a viable business model and a good mentor.

What is the role of a mentor?

One of my favorite books on this topic is, “Expect to win: 10 Proven Strategies for Thriving in the Workplace” by Carla A. Harris. She defines a mentor as “someone you rely upon to give you good, tailored developmental advice”.

According to Futurpreneur Canada, the advantages of having a mentor are described in six points.

A mentor helps you:

  • Gain insights and perspective by having someone to bounce your ideas off of
  • Focus on and strategically work towards your business vision
  • Shorten your learning curve
  • Identify opportunities and risk by learning with someone experienced
  • Grow and enhance your business network and acumen
  • Build confidence knowing you have someone in your corner

Key traits of mentors

As I write this, I think of all my mentors and the two key traits they all share:

  • Expertise and integrity: Find a mentor you believe to be brilliant, knowledgeable and trust worthy. You want your mentor to be someone you will listen to because you trust their expertise
  • Genuine interest in my development: This is what I call the mentor/mentee chemistry. Choose a mentor who is genuinely interested in who you are, understands your strengths and weakness and wants to help you develop and grow. Mentorship is a deep and personal relationship and for the relationship to be truly useful, you both must feel safe sharing the “good, bad and ugly”

How to be a good mentee

Having discussed the importance of mentorship and what to look for in a mentor, how do you become a good mentee?

  • Listen
  • Consider the advice you get and apply when relevant (This is why your mentor has to be someone you can trust)
  • Set SMART goals and hold yourself accountable
  • Ask for feedback and provide feedback in return
  • Be honest and communicate openly with your mentor
  • Invest time and effort in your relationship
  • Most importantly, as a mentee, remember to pay it forward

Peer mentorship is a form of mentorship that is often neglected but I find very valuable especially in my professional and business life. Keep in mind; your mentor must have some expertise and be genuinely interested in who you are and your development from a point of low self-interest. Many times, you can find these qualities in a peer.

To my mentors:

Thank you for teaching me to be positive and fiercely myself. Reminding me I have all I need, to be who I want to be—a healthy mind and body. Thank you for demanding I think big. Because, why the heck not.