Plato had Aristotle. Helen Keller had Anne Sullivan. J.J. Abrams had Steven Spielberg. All of these brilliant people acted as mentors to their younger protégés. They offered up their skills, experience, wisdom, and advice to those they knew could benefit from them. Throughout history, mentors have played a tremendous role in shaping leaders across all areas of expertise, from politics to arts and sciences.
But you don’t have to be in the spotlight to benefit from a mentor. Mentors are invaluable resources for anyone and everyone. This is especially true if you are hoping to become an entrepreneur. A mentor who has started their own business in the past can guide you through the start-up process and help with key decisions along the way. More than just a guide, a mentor will often become a good friend – someone you can turn to whenever you need solid advice from someone who has been there and who has your best interest at heart.
Here are 5 key traits to look for when you are searching for a mentor.
- Experience in the field
A mentor needs to be skilled and experienced in the field you are trying to pursue. While Anne Sullivan was an excellent mentor to Helen Keller, she certainly wouldn’t have been the best mentor for J.J. Abrams. Be sure to seek out someone you admire who is enthusiastic about his area of expertise. A great mentor is respected in their field and has a background and breadth of experience from which you will directly benefit.
- Willing to listen and share their experiences
Just because someone has the experience you seek, that doesn’t mean they will be willing to share their knowledge in a way that will be useful to you. A great mentor will meet you exactly where you are and remember what it was like to be in your shoes. They will not pressure you to know more than you have learned, and they will listen to your concerns at every step of your career.
- Able to provide constructive criticism and feedback
You will learn and grow the most, not from the times your mentor believes you are on the right track, but from the guidance and constructive criticism offered when you are on the wrong track. Your mentor should be able to point out your weaknesses in a constructive and kind manner. She should be able to address instances where you took an action that might be detrimental to your business, and offer a way to correct it.
- Able to let you to make mistakes
A good mentor will help you avoid mistakes as often as possible. But when you fall, he will not catch you. It’s vital that you make mistakes along the way so you can learn from personal experience and gain important business and life skills. The best mentors will offer guidance, but they will not do your work for you.
- Willing to offer helpful advice and resources
A great mentor will draw from their personal experiences to recommend advice when you need it. They will also offer up their available resources and contacts when they think they will be beneficial. A good mentor will introduce you to investors, potential business partners, or clients when they think they are appropriate contacts for you to know.
Finding a mentor might be the best thing you do as an entrepreneur. Be sure to select someone who can offer you the most value and help you succeed. For more information about mentorship opportunities, sign up for our email list.