How to get effective, targeted guidance from a mentor or advisor
A mentor is somebody who can give you guidance and who takes an interest in how you’re advancing. It’s very reassuring to know somebody knowledgeable can look at your situation and see the things that you don’t. Having a mentoring relationship can speed up your success and make you accountable – you’re much more likely to respond to stretch deadlines when “reporting back” to somebody.
You might have several mentors for the different kinds of guidance you need: sometimes you need industry-specific “troubleshooting” advice, and other times you need “softer” or wider-ranging life advice.
A mentor is not necessarily somebody who follows you through the years. They can also be an expert you consult once about a specific problem, or a person who checks in regularly for a definite period of time, while you face a certain issue or experience a certain phase – a bit like a coach.
What to expect from a mentor or advisor
Having a win-win relationship with a business mentor who takes interest in your career is one of the most impactful actions you can take: it will accelerate your business and career. A mentor who has “been there and done that” can save you so much time.
They can open you up to new ideas and opportunities, as well as help you avoid pitfalls. It’s personally enriching, not to mention highly motivating, to know that somebody else is also curious about what you find exciting, and that they want you to succeed.
How do I find a mentor? Is there a good way of approaching a potential advisor?
There are several ways to find a mentor or trusted advisor. Don’t limit yourself to waiting for luck to strike: sometimes the appropriate mentor will land in your lap, so to speak, but you can also proactively look for the right person.
On Career Mum BECKSearch, you can browse dozens of profiles to check who has the expertise you need and which profiles resonate with you and your style. Then you can decide whether to have a one-off session for specific troubleshooting, or to set up regular appointments.
Think about what you want out of the session
It works best if you have very specific, pointed questions.
Approach your mentor with a very well-defined problem that shows you have already taken action. Tell them “This is what I’ve been trying, it hasn’t worked as evidenced by A, B and C, and I’m trying to decide between X and Y – can you see something that I’m not seeing?”
Think through what you would do with the answer once you get it. For example, you are wondering how to recruit your first employee. What will you do with the knowledge? Do you have an interest in actually recruiting someone very soon, or are you more interested in simply listening to another person’s stories and learning from their experience? Be clear on which one you want.
Ideally, you will walk away from a session with some actionable steps and you will be willing to test out some ideas before the next session.
Here is how to make the most of a mentoring relationship
1. Prepare for each meeting thoroughly.
Focus the conversation on a specific problem you’re experiencing or brainstorm around a key project. Explain how you’ve arrived at this point and then elaborate on what it would mean to you if you could get to a workable solution.
A mentor is going to expect that you report on your findings from experience, as much as you are asking them for guidance. Leverage these meetings to hold yourself accountable.
2. Be very open.
It’s important to put your cards on the table and be very honest. It’s the only way you will get the most helpful guidance.
Sometimes honest, useful guidance may not be what we want to hear. The purpose of the conversation is to discuss how to move towards a solution: remember that if you find it difficult to listen to the advice. It’s not about you, it’s about the issue at hand.
Don’t sweep issues under the rug to make a better impression. Be ready to receive the help somebody else is ready to give, even if you find it unpleasant for any reason. This meeting is about actively solving problems for the betterment of you and your business.
An experienced mentor is expecting you to have questions, not to be perfect. Be prepared for critical analysis: it is designed to speed you up and not slow you down. That’s the only way your mentor will be able to help you.
On Career Mum BECKSearch, you can find the advisor that’s just right for you. You can also offer your own expertise: you are unique. The combination of your know-how, your experience and your personality might be just what somebody needs to help them.
Get start today by creating your profile.