Mentors are the cheerleaders, the leaders who show new talent the way. They pave the way to success and encourage others to follow in their footsteps — or to go their own paths to achieve individualized successes. A business mentor relationship can be just as rewarding for the mentor as it is for the mentee. Become an effective mentor and give back to the business community. Your guidance can make a real difference.
1. Earn an Advanced Degree
Although there are always exceptions, the majority of mentors in the business world are educated, experienced people with resumes that can hardly be contained on a single page. The higher and more specialized your degree, the more interest you’ll have among people looking for a business mentor.
Demonstrate your extensive knowledge and learn mentoring tips by earning an advanced degree in a program such as organizational development and leadership. With an emphasis on leadership, your graduate program will prepare you for becoming a more-effective mentor, not just to your chosen mentee, but to all of your younger or less-experienced colleagues at your company.
2. Sign Up With an Organization
As a businessperson looking for mentees, you’ve probably had access to a number of worthy candidates in your company or field. However, there are plenty of opportunities for establishing a mentor relationship outside of your network. Volunteer for mentoring through an organization, particularly the ones most relevant to your experience.
The U.S. Small Business Administration provides resources for a number of government-sponsored mentor organizations, such as Women’s Business Centers and Veteran’s Business Outreach Centers, which are always in search of experienced businesswomen and veteran businesspeople, respectively. With various chapters across the country, these organizations may make you a more sought-after mentor because of your particular expertise. You can also explore organizations exclusive to your community if such places are available.
3. Strive for a Meaningful Relationship
When you choose a mentee, try to establish a meaningful connection. This doesn’t mean you have to find someone at the same company or in the same industry. A businessperson with ambitions somewhat related to your experience, even if she doesn’t work in the exact field as you, can make as productive a connection with you as someone in your field. For example, if you’re a minority business owner, another minority businessperson striving to start a business will look up to you, even if you work in finance and he wants to start a restaurant.
So long as you find someone who shares the things in business you most value — hard work, taking calculated risks and innovative ideas, for example — the possibility for an effective mentor-mentee relationship is present. Before you establish a long-term relationship, review prospective mentees’ resumes and take them out on an interview meeting. Part of becoming an effective sought-after mentor is realizing you can’t mentor everyone who’s interested because it takes work to create meaningful relationships with those few you choose.
4. Engage in Dynamic Activities
Meeting for coffee or a meal is one way to touch base with your mentees, but it’s not the only or most effective. Do something fun and active with your mentees, and word will get around that you’re not like the other mentors who just occasionally eat with people. Ideas for a mentor-mentee meeting, before, during or after which you can discuss business issues, include:
- Playing a sports game
- Attending a conference
- Going to a theme park
- Meeting in the park
- Going camping together
- Taking kids or grandkids out for a play date
To make sure your legacy lives on after your retirement, you need to do more than just focus on your career and business goals. If you’re interested in leadership, and if you’ve shown talent as a leader, do service to yourself and to the business community at large by becoming a business mentor. Look for mentees in your company, your industry or even in an entirely different field. Wherever there’s a budding young businessperson with drive and a passion to succeed, you’ll find your mentoring talents valued.
About the Author: Shonna White is a businesswoman and mentor with over three decades of experience at a Fortune 500 company.