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Need a helping hand? Find a mentor

4th September 2017 | Beverly Landais

Behind every stunningly successful person, there is usually someone who has had a major and positive impact on their lives. There are many inspirational examples:

Former Apple CEO, the late Steve Jobs, served as a mentor to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Sir James Dyson cites his first boss, James Fry, as his mentor. Virgin Group Founder, Richard Branson, was mentored by Sir Freddie Laker. Branson is quoted as saying: “If you ask any successful business person, they will always (say they) have had a great mentor at some point along the road.”  Entertainment star and successful business woman, Oprah Winfrey, was mentored by celebrated author and poet, the late Maya Angelou. Winfrey is quoted as saying "A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself."

The idea of finding a mentor isn’t new. It is an incredibly powerful concept - especially during times of transition at the different stages of our lives. It is easy to give up on finding a mentor because you can't find the perfect match. You can improve your chances of success by considering people who might be a good match with you and whose values and principles you admire. Here are some ideas on how to find the right mentor:

Join a mentoring scheme. There are plenty of mentoring projects run by business organisations, professional trade bodies and other specialist communities. If you are fortunate enough to work for a company that provides a mentoring scheme, don’t wait to be asked to join. Show initiative and be resourceful in putting together a business case for being mentored. Begin by conducting a personal Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) then set out your career aspirations. What kind of mentor can help you get there? Be specific about the support you require and demonstrate that you are prepared to work at it.

Find a mentor through your network. Start by considering who you already know and how they might help you.  At the same time think about what you might have to offer them in return. These people might be friends, work colleagues, business contacts, social connections, fellow alumni from your school, university or previous job. The chances are that you will find they hold a range of different skills that will help you forward your goals. You might also find that they can make introductions to others with further skills that might help you.  Be mindful of the time you ask people to give you and remember to offer something back. The process of giving as well as taking will boost your self-esteem as well as cement the relationship as beneficial to both parties.  

Connect with people you think you might learn something from. If you meet someone you admire or if you read something written by a person you think you might learn from, don’t be afraid to contact them. Ask them how they became an expert in their field and be prepared to share something in return. Over time this relationship can mature into mentoring but don’t rush it. Let them see that you are worth investing some of their time and energy.

Whether you are seeking a mentor to help you run a business or assist in your personal development, there are plenty of resources available to help you understand the nature of mentoring and the benefits it can bring. Here are just some examples of the type of organisations which can get you started on the search for a mentor:

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) offers an online mentoring service to its members. The CMI is the only chartered professional body in the UK dedicated to promoting the highest standards of management and leadership excellence.  Whether you are newly qualified, or an experienced manager or about to embark on a new challenge or role, CMI mentoring provides a network of professional managers and leaders happy to support those looking to develop their careers, increase performance or deal with the issues associated with a role in management. More details can be found at managers.org.uk/cmi-mentoring

Mentorsme.co.uk is Britain’s first online gateway for small and medium-sized enterprises looking for mentoring services.  It is operated by the Business Finance Taskforce, which has been set up by the British Bankers’ Association. The free site offers businesses access to a list of quality-assured business mentoring organisations across the UK. Mentorsme.co.uk also aims to raise awareness about the benefits of business mentoring through its library of online resources, which includes articles about mentoring and case studies of successful business mentoring relationships. Find out more here: mentorsme.co.uk

Getmentoring.com is led by the Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative (SFEDI). It recruits and trains thousands of business mentors in the UK from the small, medium and micro business community. According to Getmentoring.com, a mentor should:

  • Provide an outside perspective on both the business owner and their business
  • Listen, confidentially, to the things that are worrying the business owner about their business
  • Help by sharing their own experience of both failures and successes
  • Give friendly, unbiased support and guidance
  • Provide honest and constructive feedback
  • Be a sounding board for ideas
  • Facilitate decision making by suggesting alternatives based on personal experience
  • Provide contacts and networks to further personal and business development
  • Inspire the business owner to realise their potential
  • Provide ongoing support and encouragement

Getmentoring.com provide excellent free resources for mentors and mentees, including a digital pocketbook to help mentees understand how to get the best from an enterprise mentor. Check these out these resources here: getmentoring.org/mentoring-resources

Remember that a successful mentoring relationship is a two-way process. There needs to be a clear understanding by both parties as to what you want to get out of it. After all, you are responsible for your career which means putting in the hard work and effort to achieve the aspirations you wish for in life. A great mentor can provide just the helping hand you need to succeed and it is worth making the effort to find one. 

4th September 2017 | Beverly Landais

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