On your career path, you’re going to need a lot of resources, and a mentor should be at the top of your list. A mentor is someone who can give you all sorts of professional advantages, from sharing life wisdom to connecting you with other subject matter experts. Mentors can share valuable lessons with you, leading you down a better, clearer path to your own success.
During my own journey, I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I also had the ability to learn from multiple mentors. And as I’ve matured as an entrepreneur, I’ve had many people approach me about mentoring them. It’s an important kind of relationship, and I take it very seriously.
To help other entrepreneurs and career seekers, I want to share with you the true benefits of having a mentor, which I’ve been lucky enough to experience in my own life. I also want to give you some advice on how you can find a mentor who will care about and support your professional growth.
Mentors force us to grow
Why do we need mentors? First of all, we all need people who can see where we’re going wrong in our professional life and offer up constructive criticism. Mentors have the advantage of looking at our work with clear eyes, and they can be brutally honest with us when we need it. Mentors aren’t there to simply pad our egos.
Mentors can also set various goals for us and see how these tasks help us develop. Then they can see what we did well and what we can improve upon. These are all teachable moments to make us develop anything from our project management skills to our own personal growth.
Mentors are sincere advisors
Mentors can be fantastic sources of advice. For one, we can bounce ideas off of them, and they can tell us the ones they think have potential and the ones that probably aren’t worth our efforts. Every idea we have might sound great in our own minds, but a mentor can slow us down and help us realize the flaws those ideas might have.
Mentors can also share what mistakes they went through themselves, saving us from having to make those same errors and giving us a leg up along the way. Mistakes are a very powerful method of learning, and someone who’s been on the same journey that you want to follow will have made a lot of the mistakes that you also would without their help. They’ve already done a lot of the things that you want to do, and now you can see which roads they took.
Through mentors’ own honesty, we can learn how to do things smarter as we go down our own paths.
How to find a mentor of your own
Of course, before you reap the benefits of having a mentor, first you have to find one. It’s best to try to find someone who’s a couple of years ahead of you on a similar professional journey. They’ve done what you want to do, they’ve done it fairly recently, and they haven’t risen so far that they’re unapproachable.
Here are my two key rules to finding a great mentor:
1. Don’t immediately ask someone to be your mentor
It may be tempting to simply email a professional whom you admire and be as direct as possible about how you want them to mentor you. But think about it this way: If they don’t know who you are, why would they have any real, meaningful desire to help you?
Instead, you can start by reaching out and networking with them on their platform of choice, whether it’s Firsthand, LinkedIn, or Instagram. Begin with trying to create a real relationship—be very active in their social media feed, or reach out to ask a good question about something they’ve recently shared. They’ll take notice if you’re truly engaged with their content, and they’ll be more giving of their time if and when you feel the time is right to ask for it.
2. Be giving of yourself
While a true mentor will give you a lot of valuable help and guidance throughout your relationship, you can’t think of it as a one-way street. You have to also be willing to give of yourself, whether it’s your time or your talents.
Offer to see if you can assist them with their own projects in some way. Show that you’re interested in their professional work, but also that you’re engaged and helpful. This can go a long way toward someone being more willing to dedicate their time and efforts to you in the future. People are more willing to help us if we help them first.
A final note
Finding the right mentor for you can be a slow process, but it’s absolutely worth the effort. In fact, as you progress through your career journey, you’ll most likely need multiple mentors, and that’s okay. Each person will have their own advice to offer you and lessons to impart.
Erik Bergman is an entrepreneur who made $50 million before his 30th birthday. He walked away from that role to build a new business founded on innovative and philanthropic principles. In addition to running an organization that donates 100 percent of its profits to environmental charities, he also spends time writing for sites like Business Insider, interviewing for features for outlets like Forbes and Foundr, hosting the Becoming Great podcast, and guesting on other podcasts like Mixergy, Ridiculously Human, and Hack the Entrepreneur.
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