There’s no shortage of content that defines the who, what, why and how-to’s of a mentoring relationship. Since the job market has tanked, many in their early stages of career building are looking for valued resources to assist with personal or professional development. Mentoring can be beneficial when you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation that appears to be beyond your capabilities and resources.
The Role of A Mentor
I’ve been asked many times over the years to share specific professional and personal insights that enable others to benefit from my experiences. And I never took it seriously until I came across several structured online programs that demystified the process and outcomes which enabled me to establish some engagement guidelines.
I consider the mentoring experience as just another opportunity to network and build valuable connections.
The best mentor/mentee matches include clear expectations from both parties about what they want to gain from working together, honest communication about any differing objectives, and mutual respect. Mentees need to honor their mentor’s time constraints and boundaries about what the mentor is willing to provide. Mentors need to understand their mentee’s goals and values and be active listeners, says C.J. Hayden, business coach and author.
There are many interpretations of what a mentor is and what are the responsibilities to mentor someone. I approach mentoring as connecting with professionals who are looking for help in shaping and guiding them through a career objective or a specific challenge. I do this through ongoing dialog and interaction and I expect my mentoring assignments to operate via a strict means of accountability. I find it more productive to establish a road map of anticipated results during our engagement that can be measured and maintained.
Without cooperation, we’re just going through the motions.
As a mentor in several current engagements, I commit to an initial period of time to evaluate the extent of our working relationship, including the way in which we cooperate with each. This is the single most important quality of any mentoring arrangement. Without cooperation, we’re just going through the motions. The mentoring process demands that you genuinely care about the journey and successes, it should be important to everyone involved. How else do you justify the time and attention spent working with someone else?
Locating a Mentor
Some people are lucky to have a mentor in someone they work closely with, hence learning from their experience. Others must look outside their circle, and for those there are several places to being the search.
SCORE.org: A nonprofit association of more than 13,000 volunteer counselors who individually mentor aspiring entrepreneurs and small-business owners. It also offers training, advice, workshops and resources dedicated to entrepreneur education.
MicroMentor.org: An initiative of nonprofit humanitarian agency Mercy Corps that offers free online guidance to entrepreneurs, particularly those with low incomes and limited access to business resources, and connects them with a business mentor. This is where I signed up for assignments.
SBA.gov: Ever the small-business resource, the Small Business Administration’s Mentor-Protégé program serves firms eligible for its 8(a) Business Development program, an initiative to help socially and economically disadvantaged Americans gain access to economic opportunity.
VA.gov/osdbu: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs launched its Mentor-Protégé Program to pair mentoring firms with small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans and other veteran-owned small businesses to create long-term relationships and provide business assistance. [Source: Michelle Juergen]
LinkedIn: This business networking website is an excellent resource for all types of mentoring opportunities. I searched on the keyword and came up with 997,940 results. You can refine your search results by identifying which groups or individuals have the criteria you’re looking for.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
We all want to manage our personal and professional relationships in a way that matters. We should want to help nurture each other because of the potential for long-term benefits. Most importantly, it’s team work that makes the dream work. John Maxwell puts it this way;
It’s not what you do but why you do it and when you do it that makes a difference.
Do not expect one mentor to cover everything. Cultivate multiple mentors for your personal and professional development. Once you’ve connected with your mentoring engagement, be sure to keep it vibrant and respectful. Mentoring has enabled me to invest in something that will outlast our interactions.