If more networkers had a mentor, and some really great training then their chances of truly reaching their dreams in life would be so much closer. A mentor can have a major impact on your life and your career. Only a mentor can truly share wisdom with you on an ongoing basis. You get expert business networking skills at your fingertips.
The Merriam-Webster WWWebster Dictionary defines a mentor as “a trusted counselor or guide.” A mentor is someone with more business networking experience than you have and who serves as a trusted confidante over an extended period of time. Mentoring is about contribution. A true mentor is a veteran in the wings who you take to lunch or visit occasionally and who offers kernels of wisdom just because they have the experience you desire. Usually they do not charge a fee. Why? If they are like me, it is a way of giving back to the community. This may sound altruistic and it is. It is an unselfish concern for the welfare of others or in other words: selflessness.
Ask anyone successful in any line of work how they did it, and there’s at least one thing they’ll all agree on: You’ll never make it without the guidance of special people who’ve walked your path before. They have been there and done that.
There is a saying that the teacher teaches most what the teacher needs to learn. Some do it to develop their skills as a teacher, manager, strategist, or consultant. A true mentoring relationship works both ways – the mentor learns about new ideas from mentee as the mentee learns about business networking from them. You choose them and they choose you.
A mentor will become not only your advisor, but your friend and confidante. However, a mentor relationship is a trusted relationship that develops over time. It cannot possibly come from someone you just met at a networking event. Relationships – especially trusted relationships – are very special. Your mentor has no ulterior motive – no service or product to sell you. That combined with their experience creates a great foundation for trust.
“If you want to improve your networking skills, teach someone else what you know.” ~ Dr. Ivan Misner, Founder and Chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization
If you are looking for a mentor, here are a few things to remember:
1. Clearly define the area of your business where you need the most help. Make a list of your top goals for the mentoring relationship. A mentor is there to help you set goals and hold you accountable.
2. Be selective about who you approach to be your mentor. Research available information about them.
3. Ask them about their career.
4. Pick their brain at lunches – Pay for lunches and coffees.
5. Find out who they learned from.
6. Ask what was the one piece of advice that they received that made the biggest difference in their business.
7. Discuss the length of time your mentor will be available. Frequency of contact is important in the relationship to keep the learning process moving forward.
8. Take notes. Bring a recording device of your choice: pen and paper, PDA, laptop, or voice recorder.
9. Really listen to what they say. Pay attention. Be coachable.
10. Be honest about your strengths, weaknesses, and skill level.
Not knowing how to create their own success is frustration. Admitting you don’t know everything you need to know about your business is a strength.
SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) provide entrepreneurs with free mentoring and workshops at hundreds of local offices nationwide. SCORE also offers e-mail mentoring and an online database of their mentors.
Solicit former bosses or professors, people you meet through professional associations or networking groups, or even online social networks. Some are more than willing to be a mentor. It’s not a life-long commitment. All you have to do is ask. You will usually have only one mentor at a time, but over time, you may have several mentors in several different areas of your business.
“Coaching and mentoring are often better online or over the phone because it’s less about who’s giving the advice and more about the topics at hand.” ~ Nell Merlino, president of Count Me In, a New York-based women’s business advocacy group.
Always remember that while a mentoring relationship generally lasts more than just one or two meetings, neither of you is locked in. You continue the relationship only if it continues to serve you both well. The job of a mentor is not to take you by the hand every step of the way. It’s to give you some guidance while you are on your way.
Your guidance will be influential in helping that person succeed and grow, just as you have. Think back to any Mentor or person of significant influence in your life and how grateful you are to that person for helping to steer you the right way. Now is your chance to guide someone else’s path.
“No one gets to the top of the mountain alone. Why would we want to when the view is so much better when surrounded by friends?” ~ Kristen Marie Schuerlein
Copyright © 2011 – Larry James. Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Coach. Larry James presents networking seminars nationally and offers Networking coaching; one-on-one or for your Networking Group! Invite Larry James to speak to your group! His latest book is, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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