Why You Need A Mentor

 

If you follow our blog or have read a few posts before, you might have noticed a suggestion we’ve given a few times: to find a mentor. In this blog post, we will address why you might want one, how to find one, and some questions you can ask them.

 

Why do I need a mentor?

Having a mentor can be great for getting honest advice from non-family members.  Mom and dad are great for support--they are, after all, your biggest fans--but they might not give honest feedback. This is especially important because not all your ideas or plans are going to be right, and you need a professional to offer constructive criticism. I have two mentors in very different industries, but both are experienced in the startup world. One way they have been valuable to me is by being available when I need someone to run my ideas and decisions by to make sure I’m not making any obvious mistakes. Often there are no right or wrong answers, and sometimes they tell me to try it and see what happens, but they also help steer me down the right path when I’m not sure which way to go.

Another great reason to have a mentor is for networking and resources. Odds are they’ve been a business professional for a long time and probably know people who could help you on your entrepreneurial journey. A person your mentor connects you with will know someone else and so on and so forth. Following that kind of networking trail can lead to all kinds of opportunities and knowledge. It is important to note that a mentor does not have to be in your same industry. Look for someone who you admire, have great respect for, and get along with as a human being. 

 

Where do I find a mentor?

There are a few places you can go to locate a mentor. Consider looking around at your current job. Is there a supervisor you like and connect with? Next, try looking at family, friends, and connections you already have. Is there someone you admire and look up to? Another option is to evaluate your professors and instructors at college. Teachers love helping students and may have more time to devote to mentoring than business professionals because it’s their job to teach and advise. 

I found both of my mentors through networking. I started getting involved with entrepreneur and startup events at UVU, in Utah County, and in the SLC area. I have had the chance to meet entrepreneurs and business professionals from all over. Through working with them I got to know them and was able to grow those relationships enough to select the ones that I felt would make great mentors for me.

Lastly, if you aren’t sure where else to look, or if you have specific requirements you’re seeking in a mentor, make an appointment with Mark at the Entrepreneurship Institute. He is well-connected to the huge network of business professionals up and down the Wasatch front and would love to help you select the right mentor for you.

 Mentor Chat

I found a mentor… now what?

Once you’ve found your mentor, it's a good idea to set expectations for the relationship. You don’t want to meet with them too often and take up their valuable time, but too little and you could miss out on much-needed advice. A great strategy is to ask them what they think is appropriate. How frequent should you meet and how? In person? Over the phone? Email questions as needed, but meet in person every couple of months? Find what works with your needs and schedule. I tend to email my mentors when I have questions and we do phone calls when I’ve reached a goal deadline with my business and we need to talk about next steps.

Make sure the relationship is beneficial for both of you. As a mentor, it is easy to just give and give. You will stand out and be a breath of fresh air if you have something to offer. It can be as simple as recommendations regarding a mutual interest (places to hike, restaurants to eat, or the best place to get a haircut, etc), or getting them an invite to a networking event they might enjoy. 

 

What do I ask them?

If you aren’t very acquainted with your mentor some great questions to ask when getting to know them are stories about their life and experience. How did they end up in their current career? What mistakes have they made and what did they learn? Do they have any regrets? Getting them to share stories gives you a window into who they are as a person and what led them to make the decisions they did.

Second, ask them to evaluate you. What skills do they see in you? Where do they feel your strengths and weaknesses are? This is similar to a review you might have received at work, but the difference here is it's not observations that are tied to the responsabilities of one job, but of your overall qualities and performance at a variety of tasks and skills.

Third, ask specific questions related to what you’re struggling with. This could be related to business, your team, finances, etc. A trick to get their honest opinion is to add “If I was your son/daughter, what would you tell me to do?” This forces the mentor to pretend they actually care. This is not to say that they normally don’t care… but everyone cares more for family than a stranger, and you’re looking for deep meaningful advice.

 

Best of luck on your search for a mentor!  Let us know if we can be of any assistance.