When you have the responsibility of running your own business, the support and advice of an experienced mentor can be invaluable. A great business mentor can act as a much-needed sounding board, helping you to steer clear of potential pitfalls and identify steps to ensure that your business thrives. With all these benefits in mind, you might be wondering how to go about finding a business mentor. Here are our top tips.
Define your requirements
The credentials and expertise you should look for in a mentor depend on what you and your business need. Before you begin your search, identify the areas that you’re looking for support in and consider how a business mentor might be able to help.
If you’re seeking to address a challenge that’s specific to your industry, it’s likely that you’ll want to look for a mentor who has extensive experience in your sector. If, on the other hand, you need support with developing a specific skill, such as running a team or raising funds to facilitate growth, you might want to focus on finding a mentor with a proven track record in these areas.
Get your search under way
Once you’ve identified who you’re looking for, there are a number of places you could go to find your ideal business mentor. You may want to start by looking into mentorship programmes run through government bodies, which can match you with a mentor from a relevant industry and region. These programmes include the UK-wide Mentorsme, Business Gateway in Scotland and Business Wales.
The alumni networks of schools, colleges or universities can also be a rich source of potential for prospective mentors. If you have access to one of these networks, consider doing some research to find out if they host events or provide a dedicated networking platform for alumni members.
It’s a good idea to keep your search for a mentor in mind at any networking events you attend within your industry or local business community, as you may well find a potential mentor among your fellow attendees.
And if you're comfortable with taking your search for a mentor online, LinkedIn has some advice on using its professional networking platform to find a mentor.
Start as you mean to go on
Once you’ve identified a potential mentor, it’s important for you both to get the relationship off to a good start. Before you begin any formal mentoring sessions, it’s good practice to have an informal conversation first so you can get to know one another and check that you’re on the same wavelength.
Being open and honest about what you're looking for from the mentoring relationship can help to set expectations early and ensure that you and your potential mentor are compatible before you get started. An introductory conversation can also be an opportunity for you to learn more about the mentor’s background and experience, and for you to tell them about your business and the goals you would like to achieve.
If you decide to go ahead, your mentor is likely to suggest establishing some parameters for the mentoring relationship, including how frequently you plan to meet - and for how long - and the types of topics you'll cover in your sessions.
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