Entrepreneurs regularly ask me: “How do I get a mentor?” They simply don’t realise how easy it really is to get mentorship. However I can relate, because I was once in their shoes.
Everything changed for me when I accidentally stumbled upon my first mentor. I started working for an online magazine and my fabulous manager took me under her wings and showed me everything she knew about running a successful business. That’s when it clicked. I realized mentorship can happen organically and it’s easily attainable if you know where to look and what you are looking for.
If you’ve been struggling to find mentorship, here are four ways to find a mentor.
1. At Work
If you’re still working for a company while you make the shift to entrepreneurship, a manager or superior can be an inspiring mentor. Rick Bains, co-founder of BDG Chartered Accountants LLP in Surrey, British Columbia, found a mentor in his prior boss.
Rick attributes much of his ability to remain calm under the pressures of entrepreneurship to his mentor: “In the seven years I was at the firm, I never once saw my boss look stressed due to pressure. He never panicked or got angry. He taught me how to focus on the things that were in my control, work effectively under pressure, and maintain a good work/life balance."
2. At University
Classrooms are a great place to meet mentors. The same people surround you every week, giving you the opportunity to learn about each of their personalities and strengths. Whether you ask for help from a fellow student and exchange your individual skills, or you ask your teacher to help guide you, both are great opportunities for mentorship.
Carol Susan Cohen, associate dean of first-year and sophomore studies at Brown University believes: “Mentors can be found in many corners of a college or university, so keep your antennae up for that instructor or advisor who makes you feel supported, challenged, inspired, or all three."
Your family is probably not the first group you think about when looking for a mentor, but family members who have their own businesses could be great mentors. You also have the benefit of knowing that person well so that you can predict what their mentorship style will be.
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, thanks his parents for being his mentors. He commented in an interview with Fortune: “As I was starting Microsoft, I'd go over on Sundays and share with my parents what the challenges were and get some thoughts (and) just vent about what was complicated. I remember when we were taking the company public, I was saying that I thought that would have some real drawbacks, and we talked about how to mitigate those.”
4. Professional Mentorship Organizations
Many small business owners are surprised to know they can get mentors from professional organizations. There are a variety of non-profit organizations, social enterprises and companies that offer paid mentorship or free mentorship subject to certain criteria.
The benefit of mentors from professional organizations is that they are usually required to sign conflict of interest and confidentiality agreements. The mentorships are also structured and set for certain periods of time allowing you to reach attainable goals.
To see a list of all the available mentorship programs in British Columbia, simply visit MentorshipBC and use its free search tool. MentorshipBC currently lists 51 mentorship programs in BC. For more information you can email [email protected] or join the MentorshipBC LinkedIn group for mentorship program updates.
Mentors can drastically boost the chance of success for your small business by increasing the size of your network, increasing your self-confidence and decreasing common start up mistakes. So, take action and find your mentor today.