Get by with a little help: how to find a great mentor

Get by with a little help: how to find a great mentor

Recently, my supervisor was telling me her frustrations with a co-worker she had decided to mentor. They both worked at our company but were in completely different departments, so she really didn’t know how to guide and advise him. Just because she had been with the company longer than this person, he assumed she would have some knowledge to impart. But since no expectations or goals had been set and their career paths were so vastly different, this relationship would never get off the ground.

A mentoring partnership can be a great thing, whether one is seeking personal or professional development. A great mentorship can enhance your career and research proves that it can increase revenue and growth for your business, too. The UPS Store conducted a study in 2014 that showed that 70% of small business owners who are mentored survive more than five years, which is double the survival rate of non-mentored business owners.

Mentoring provides an experienced perspective. By partnering with a business owner or industry professional in a similar field, one can learn what worked and didn’t work when starting a similar business and receive experienced guidance. In addition, if your mentor cannot help with every issue or idea, he or she might have a great network of resources to share to help your business.

Finding a Mentor, Finding a Match

The best way to find a mentor is to have a plan in place. If you pair up with someone without discussing expectations, you can’t expect your goals to be met. Use these steps to conduct your search for a mentor, and you’ll find the perfect one in no time.

Establish your needs. Figure out what you want from this experience and what you need from a mentor. Are you looking for an experienced professional in your field to offer long-term business plan advice or someone who can help you network with the right people in your industry? When you set your needs from the beginning, you can use them to guide your relationship in order to accomplish your goals.

Look outside your network. Don’t be afraid to network outside of your comfort zone. Attend local business association meetings, ask friends if they have any recommendations, contact your alma mater, or use a non-profit mentor network (see below).

Meet with candidates. Discuss what you’re looking for and see if your candidates are up to snuff. You both need to be clear about your expectations, see if those expectations coincide, and determine if your schedules will align so you can meet on a regular basis.

Set expectations and goals. After picking your mentor, be clear about what you would like to get out of your relationship. Setting goals to meet is a great way to accomplish what you want. Goals should be tangible and specific such as desiring to grow revenue by 10%, increasing your social media presence and quadrupling your interactions, or developing a business plan. Once you have met your goals, you can meet less frequently but still maintain a great professional, and maybe even personal, relationship.

To help kick off your search, check out these two great resources, sponsored by the Small Business Association:

SCORE is a non-profit network of business executives and leaders who offer free mentoring and counseling. You can find mentors who have expertise at all levels, and you can meet specialists in a range of businesses from marketing to technology.

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) provide educational services to small business owners and entrepreneurs. You can find a wide range of guidance, from mentoring in one-on-one sessions to training seminars and business plan assistance. Local SBDCs can be found nationwide.

Good luck in your search!