Mentors have been a staple of the business world for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Young professionals can benefit from working with a seasoned industry veteran in a number of ways. Still others view business mentorship as a way of getting their foot in the door and meeting new people.
Today, we will be discussing the value of a business mentor, when to consider entering into a mentorship, and some counterpoints from those who believe mentors are unnecessary in the modern business world.
Do I Really Need a Business Mentor?
Is it possible to succeed in today’s business world without a mentor? Absolutely, it is. Yet for every success story of an Elon Musk shirking the notion of working with a mentor, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of successful business people who used the advice of a mentor to get ahead.
Industry mentors provide knowledge and experience which simply cannot be found anywhere else. Industries are becoming so unbelievably specialized that a Hertz employee would likely be completely lost if she was placed behind an Enterprise desk the following day. As business knowledge becomes more acute, so grows the value of an expert within your field.
Mentors also offer the service of honest feedback. True growth generally comes from working on weaknesses rather than strengths. An encouraging yet honest mentor will identify where you can improve and help you climb that mountain.
Choosing the Best Mentor for Your Needs and Goals
No two mentors will be exactly alike. Therefore no two mentors will give you the same value as you progress throughout your career. Consider the following when choosing a mentor who will best suit your individual needs:
Your values and ideologies (mostly) align. You do not need to be on the same page about every single thing, but if you are an environmentalist concerned about plastic waste and your mentor is an oil tycoon, that mentor relationship might not be the best fit.
Your mentor is committed to helping you for the long haul. Before spending your time and energy on a mentor-mentee relationship, make sure that your potential mentor is genuinely willing and able to help you out. This goes beyond just “being a nice guy”. Mentorship takes a very real time commitment that not every professional is able to make.
The business aspects work for both parties. Sometimes we can get bogged down in finding a mentor we like and respect to the point of forgetting the main goal: learning from a more experienced professional within our industry. Bill Gates would be a superstar mentor for software engineers, but he might not be able to help an assistant basketball coach reach the next level. (No offense, Bill.)
The Value of a Trusted Business Mentor
We are taught from a young age to cast a wide net and learn all we can. Listening to multiple voices can often lead to the truth because each individual will have his or her own biases. And yet a singular perspective is still incredibly valuable when it comes to mentorship.
Why? Because when a young professional develops a close relationship with a mentor, each piece of advice has context.
You might not take dating advice from George Clooney because what worked for him might not work for you. Similarly, you might not take startup advice from Donald Trump unless you too were receiving a loan of $1 million from your father.
Those two might know a hell of a lot about dating and about business respectively, but they also might not be the best mentors for you. Cultivating a relationship with a business mentor you can trust reaps benefits because you know from where the advice is coming.
The Risks of Working with Mentors – A Counterpoint
Of course, not everyone agrees that mentors are a necessity. Many innovators and rogue business minds shirk the idea of mentors as something that will slow them down. While we do not buy into this mentality either, there are some arguments against working with a business mentor which are worth exploring:
It is easiest to make clear decisions with only a single viewpoint. Each man and woman must make his or own decisions at the end of the day. The more voices we have, literally and figuratively, in our ears, the harder those decisions become. Sometimes those voices are worth listening to. This is the balancing act we all must strike.
Experience does not necessarily imply wisdom. Recent years have signaled a paradigm shift of how business gets done. Disruptive ideas are becoming more important than stalwart business practices. This begs the question: is listening to that industry vet really more valuable than going with your gut?
At the end of the day, business mentors are a sounding board. We believe that a quality mentor is always a valuable resource, whether you choose to take their advice or not.
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