Whether you find yourself at the beginning, mid-way through, looking to take that next-step up or at a pivot point of your personal, career, or entrepreneurial development journey you will be in a need of a lot of advice. The right advice. And you guessed it, a mentor can be exactly the right source of wisdom you need. That's why choosing the right business mentor is crucial for your success. But how to choose the mentor best suited for your personal and professional development goals? Here are eight tips to help you choose the right mentor based on our year-long experience of pairing up the right mentoring matches.
A good mentor will guide, not advise; inspire, not motivate; critique, not judge; and share ideas and options, but not do the work for you.
Clearly define who you are looking for
Before even getting started with your search, take some time to think about what you or your business needs at this point and how a mentor will help you to achieve your goals.
What do you want or need most in a mentor? Network? Real-life advice? Industry insights?
Are you looking for an expert in a certain field? For example, marketing, financial advice or someone with experience in international sales?
What relevant experience are you looking
Consider factors like their background, skills, expertise and network. The right mentor will be able to connect you with the right people and they'll use their already existing network to help you or your business get to where you need to be.
It’s totally okay to desire different things from your mentor at different points of your journey. It’s also okay to seek different advice from different mentors. For example, you may be in need of more financial advice at the beginning of an entrepreneurial project but as your project grows your focus may change to needing advice in the marketing sphere.
Your mentor should have a track record of success and real-world experience in the areas of which you are interested in and value most. While you can't expect your mentor to spoon-feed you all the answers, they ideally at least have relevant experience to help you overcome the challenges you may encounter.
"Experience is the hardest kind of teacher. It gives you the test first and the lessons come after." - Oscar Wilde.
Consider your timelines
Yes, being strategic towards your mentoring approach will help you to lay the foundations to make the most of your mentoring relationship.
What kind of help do you need the most at this current point in time?
What kind of help do you think you’ll need in six months or a year from now?
The support needed will most likely differ, especially when it comes to the development of your business. You will be able to focus on choosing mentors who have the experience you need to match your needs at this point in time and help you sift through your short, medium and long term goals.
Consider your values and interests and compare them with your mentor’s
When you choose a mentor, you have the opportunity to choose a long-term partner for your personal and your business.
What do you value most in your career or personal life?
Finding someone with values similar to yours will help you understand each other and thus will lead to a better relationship.
It is good to begin by assessing your own values. Write your values down and really consider them. Compromising on the aspects of your personality, business approach, and values could lead to unhappiness and unfruitful mentoring relationship.
Do you believe in work/life balance? Do you put your family first? Are you more introverted or extroverted? To what extent do you want to move outside your comfort zone? For example, someone who works 60+ hours a week might not be a great fit as your mentor. You will learn more from someone whose values mirror your own but that shouldn’t mean you close yourself off to stepping outside your comfort zone.
It is therefore crucial that you understand each other on a personal level and that you share the same values. The mentor needs to be genuinely interested in you and your product or idea. A good mentor will become a fan and advocate of your vision, project or journey.
Equally as important is whether you admire this person for their achievements and industry experience. A great mentor should be someone who shares a similar professional outlook and may have overcome similar challenges or achieved the goals you are working towards.
Seek out someone who truly loves his or her work.
Check the vibe
Mentoring is a relationship and if the vibe is not right then the relationship will not develop in a way that will be productive to your goals.
Are we vibing?
Am I comfortable with this person?
Sometimes relationships take a little bit to get moving fluidly. But trust your gut. It is therefore 100% okay for you decide not to continue with a mentor if the *vibe* isn’t right.
If you’re part of a guided mentoring program (such as ours), you most likely receive support to connect you with another mentor if you and your mentor don’t *click*.
Managing your expectations
Ask yourself if mentoring is really what you are after to achieve your goals or what you actually want or need is coach.
Is a little guidance making a difference for me?
Do I wanna learn from experience, extracting life, career or business advice for myself?
Do I need someone introducing me to the right people so I can accelerate my career or business?
Do I need someone supporting me step by step on my journey, holding me accountable and really going in-depth with me and my personal story?
If you answered the last question with yes, a mentor is most likely not what you’re looking for at the moment. Mentors and coaches are great but to manage your expectations make sure that a mentor is what you want. Still not sure? We break down the difference for you here.
Understand your communication style
Think about how you like to communicate and decide whether you’d like to have in-person sessions with your mentor or if online or phone conversations also work for you. If you feel that in-person contact with a mentor would be the best method to work towards your goals then focus on mentors located in your city.
What’s your communication style?
How much feedback do you require?
How often do you wish to meet with your mentor?
There are things that can be discussed with your mentor but it is good to understand how you work in order for you and your mentor to get on the same page, manage expectations, and productively work together towards your goals.
Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone
Mentoring is a relationship that will help you develop professionally and personally and often that requires stepping outside your comfort zone.
Am I ready for different views and perspectives?
How much do you like to be pushed to work harder?
Do I want a mentor in my industry or am I open to perspectives from other industries?
Don’t be afraid to consider a mentor who is a bit outside your comfort zone (whilst still aligning with your values). A mentor shouldn’t be a clone of yourself or a friend. It is important to have diversity to ensure you’re getting a true different perspective on things. Great mentors can be found in people who are younger than you, from a different country than you, or aren’t identifying as the same gender as you.
Your mentor doesn’t even have to be in the same line of work as you. The degree to which you want someone with a background in the same industry or line of work you will definitely know by now if you read point 1 and assessed your needs ;)
Having someone from a different background can add value by providing a different viewpoint and help you gain clarity.
Where to start
Consider looking for networking events in your area to meet with potential mentors in person but don’t be shy to reach out to people directly through e.g. LinkedIn either. Another great way is to use your already existing network to bounce off ideas about who might be the right mentor for you.
And last but definitely not least - one of the best ways to get matched with your perfect mentors is through structured mentoring programs. That’s where the female factor community's got you covered. We are making sure that our mentors are ready to support the next generation of leaders in their personal and professional development and we are guiding both - the mentors and the mentee - to a fruitful and mutually beneficial relationship. Our very own mentoring program is guaranteed to take you to the next level. Apply today!