Posted on: 18 February 2015
Being on the receiving end of a business mentor can be incredibly powerful. It allows you to gain from the experiences of someone who has trodden your professional path already.
Becoming the mentor rather than the mentee can be similarly valuable and rewarding.
How becoming a mentor might feel
Even if you’ve been successful in business for some time and have gathered a wealth of experience in your industry, it can be hard to appreciate what you’ve achieved. Instead of keeping your knowledge and expertise to yourself, you may like the idea of sharing it with someone whose business and life could benefit from it. The added bonuses for you are the satisfaction that you are helping another business person achieve their goals, and the realisation of how far you’ve personally come too.
If finding the hours in the day to impart your wealth of knowledge on someone or help them deal with their business troubles puts you off, think of it like this:
- mentoring someone is an opportunity to take you away from your own issues, allowing you to return to them later with a fresh head
- you might start seeing your own business and path from a different perspective, opening doors you didn’t realise were there
- it’s a chance to gain confidence in your own abilities and experience
- the prospect of you learning something useful from your mentee is particularly good if you have similar interests and ambitions
- there may be opportunities for paid work, particularly if you really enjoy mentoring and see your mentees getting a lot out of your input.
Mentoring someone outside your business
If you have been in the market looking for a mentor, chances are you won’t be the only one. There are likely to be several other people that you know who are seeking an experienced ear with whom to share ideas and solve problems.
So why not offer yourself as a business mentor to someone you know is looking for one? Becoming an informal mentor means committing to meet with someone on a regular basis for an agreed length of time. It does or doesn’t have to involve them paying you, that’s your mutual decision.
There are all sorts of people you could choose to mentor. For example, the young, ambitious graduate who is seeking advice on taking their first step into running a business in your sector. This could be your niece, a customer’s son or the grandchild of your former accountant. Or the owner-manager you met at a networking event who is struggling to balance his commitments to his growing business and see his family – a challenge you experienced. It could even be one of your peers, perhaps another local business person or someone in the same industry who has approached you for advice.
Just because you’re offering someone advice doesn’t mean you have to put the ‘mentoring’ label on it. You may choose to offer to meet them over a coffee to share your experiences, and not mention mentoring at all. Or, if it becomes a regular entry in your diary, you may want to formalise it to help both of you get the most out of your meetings.
Mentoring a member of your team
In the same way as people running other businesses, don’t forget that your own members of staff have ambitions and goals of their own. Their respect for you and their desire to learn from you may make them perfect mentees.
The more determined members of your team might appreciate some dedicated time with you to talk about their career ambitions. You may have high hopes for them too, so lending them your ear and freely offering advice could not only help them personally, but could also help your own business in a new way too.
Informally offering your staff your time if they ever want to discuss their career ambitions is an easy place to start. Hopefully you already have a good enough relationship with them to be able to explain what they need to do to make any time spent together worthwhile.
Alternatively, if your business’s headcount warrants it, you may want to work with your HR team to set up an internal mentoring scheme. Candidates could pitch to be your mentee for a year, at which point another mentee is selected.
Join a national network
Finally, you could volunteer with The Prince’s Trust to meet regularly with a young person to help them develop their business. You can offer support on starting their business, marketing, finance, planning and even innovation. Find out more here.
Virgin Startup also looks for mentors to support people starting out in business. You can apply to become a mentor here.
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