A networking mentor is an invaluable resource for your networking success. If networking hasn’t been working as well as you would like, you would be wise to find one.
A mentor can be a great partner to have in a broad range of scenarios, whether they provide pointers on business strategy, bolster your networking efforts or act as confidantes when your work-life balance gets out of whack. All of us can benefit from having a mentor at our back to teach, promote and encourage us.
“What is a mentor? And how and why does one become a mentor. The concept is almost as old as humanity. The role of the mentor was established in law by Hammurabi in his code, which is recognized as the first codification of civil law, about 1770 BC. The word “mentor” is derived from the name of the person entrusted with the education of Ulysses’ son, when Ulysses went off to fight the Trojan War, in about 1200 BC. The concept was institutionalized down through the ages in every apprenticeship and guild that has ever existed. But while every management book of our age raves of the benefits of mentorship, still few of us actually have mentors.” ~ Dave Iuppa
You could buy some networking books or attend some networking seminars, however there is nothing like having someone you can turn you when you get lost in the networking jungle. You’re basically flying solo. The definition of mentorship includes people at all ages and experience levels; mentors aren’t just for twenty-somethings anymore.
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” – John Crosby
Everybody needs a good reliable sounding board, a second opinion, and sometimes just emotional support. Look around. Identify the people already in your network, people who have “been there, done that.” Look for someone who motivates others by setting a good example. You can usually tell who the successful networkers are. If not, ask around. Let those already in your network know that you are looking for someone to learn from, someone who is willing to teach you the ropes.
Never be afraid to admit that you don’t know everything there is to know about business networking. Every time I speak to a networking group or hang out with my networking friends I learn something and I’ve been doing some serious networking for many years.
“Mentoring is an voluntary advisory relationship between an older, more experienced individual and a younger person. Sometimes these relationships are formal and structured (think Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization) and sometimes they are loose and undefined. Sometimes a mentor is selected for you; more often you decide who you want to mentor you based upon whom you respect, admire, like and trust. Sometimes the mentor picks you because they see great potential in you that can be realized with a little positive guidance.” ~ Kathy McAfee
Keep your eyes open for possible mentors when you meet fellow networker with whom you share a common interest, perhaps one that has nothing to do with business. In this hi-tech world where everyone is overloaded with e-mail, sometimes a simple phone call can be surprisingly effective when reaching out for guidance.
Mentors are readily available, usually free of charge. You can begin by scheduling monthly mentoring lunches. Agree to meet close to their office and make sure you demonstrate that you’re grateful for their time and guidance. Be willing to buy their lunch several times a month, to hang out with them at their various networking events to watch, listen and learn.
Make sure to make it clear to the person who becomes your mentor that you envision the meetings and relationship will be a two-way street, with each party learning and contributing. Another thing is to be sure that the person who mentors you already has a good reputation in networking and has already achieved what you want to achieve.
When asking someone to be your networking mentor, don’t make it sound like work. Exude a sense of excitement, smile, and laugh a little. Mentorship is an energy-boosting opportunity for both of you, and it often turns into a long-term friendship as well as a business relationship. Mentorship is responsible work but if there isn’t a promise of fun, initiative or excitement on your part, don’t expect your would-be mentor to embrace the opportunity to help you.
Dr. Ivan Misner, founder and chairman of BNI, has identified “7 Characteristics of a Good Mentor”
1. A desire to help. Individuals who are interested in and willing to help others.
2. Have had positive experiences. Those who have had positive formal or informal experiences with a mentor tend to be good mentors themselves.
3. Good reputation for developing others. Experienced people who have a good reputation for helping others develop their skills.
4. Time and energy. People who have the time and mental energy to devote to the relationship.
5. Up-to-date knowledge. Those who have maintained current, up-to-date technological knowledge and/or skills.
6. Learning attitude. Individuals who are still willing and able to learn and who see the potential benefits of a mentoring relationship.
7. Demonstrated effective managerial (mentoring) skills. People who have demonstrated effective coaching, counseling, facilitating and networking skills.
The person you are looking for should have all seven of these characteristics in place and be willing to spend some time with you.
BONUS Article: Networking Mentors – Be One and Find One
Copyright © 2012 – Larry James. Adapted from Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. 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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