You might have heard the adage that to make it as an entrepreneur or to start a small business it is essential to find yourself a good mentor. Valuable mentorship means finding a person that will give you straight advice; someone with the benefit of having walked in your shoes before you. A mentor can be a service as an objective advocate, a friend, a shoulder to unburden yourself and in some cases deliver a good smack when you need one.
Mentors can be found through business and trade organizations, through referrals and by asking. The key to getting a mentor is to ask. If you have a hero in your field, the guy you really look up to why not start there and ask them to be a mentor. It may not be a formal weekly session but an occasional coffee to talk about your plans and business. Go ahead and ask! You will be surprised how many successful people will say yes. People who have a lot of knowledge on a subject usually like to share their expertise. Old pros can find delight and new ideas themselves from mentoring young or up-and-coming rookies in their field.
Two Way Street
Mentorship goes both ways. Established professionals can benefit from donating some of their time, experience and smarts to those who are eager to hear what they have to say. Those coming into a small business field or profession may not have the experience but they do have enthusiasm. Helping a willing student can be rewarding and invigorating for someone who has seen it all and may be wavering on the cynical side.
Bringing Up Baby
If you think that mentorship is about getting free labor from a bunch of College interns then you would be surprised. Internship programs in colleges and universities are detailed programs with numerous requirements for both the student and the employer or mentor. It will take some dedication to helping the students achieve their credit hours in your organization and some work on your part to accept applications, review and interview the candidates, set forth a list of goals or requirements and take responsibility for the student actually gaining some knowledge while they are under your wing.
Becoming a mentor or bringing on an intern can add labor but also force you as the small business owner to look at your business through new eyes. Incoming college kids can give you a very fresh perspective on how your WePay Store or other small business runs. When you get a new, objective view at how you do things, you may challenge yourself and learn a thing or two you did not expect. Explaining your ideas and processes forces you to take a hard look at how and why you run your business the way you do.
If you would like to get involved in fostering mentorship in your business it simply takes contacting the business school at your university or college. There is probably a specific program that would be covered in your business. Explain that you are interested in hiring interns or mentoring students and they will start the ball rolling for you to become involved in their established programs. Be ready for a fair amount of paperwork, a few hoops and some bureaucracy. The process may take a lot more time than you think. If you don’t believe you need or want to take on interns then you might make an offer to come speak to a class or host a tour of your business.
Give and Take
The most valuable lesson in receiving or giving mentorship is learning to give and take. You may ask for help and you may even listen while you are being mentored. The most important aspect is actually taking the advice you are given. When it comes to fostering mentorship within your company, always remember you will always get back something when you choose to give.