The importance of mentors cannot be overstated. A good mentor inspires you, stretches you, connects you, develops your EQ, opens your mind and most importantly, doesn’t judge. They provide a safe space to learn, experiment and ask questions, no matter how seemingly stupid. In the corporate world, mentoring boosts employee engagement and retention, as well as knowledge retention. And in the startup world, mentorship makes early stage companies stick around longer (on average, an extra 2 years) and helps make them more successful. In short, Mentorship is a way to soak up the wisdom of those who have gone before you, in a way that sticks. Often in the startup world, it can feel like you’re alone, making mentors more important than ever. Here are some ways to think about approaching a mentor and what to ask for.
Having more than one mentor is critical. Like most of us, mentors have differing areas of expertise and can be called upon when you need their skills the most. First, find a mentor you identify with. This means finding someone who has similar style, mannerisms and approach to your own. Watching them navigate their own career will be enlightening for you, and is likely to resonate deeply and make sense intuitively. You will learn how they use their skillset (often similar to your own) to get out of tricky situations and make the cards work in their favor. It’s like watching a more experienced and successful version of you in action.
You should also identify one mentor that has a style diametrically opposed to your own. The growth opportunity they provide will be immense. Many of their approaches or suggestions might intimidate you, or feel like a force fit. However, by adopting a toolkit separate to your tried and true defaults, you will learn new tips, tricks and ways to come out on top.
Just like any good teacher, specificity is key. I have a few mentors that I can turn to for help navigating different things like; understanding the TV world, scaling my business and entrepreneurial tenacity.