Business mentors share invaluable insight with less experienced professionals. Strong mentor relationships have been linked to higher salaries, faster professional advancement, and greater job satisfaction, according to Harvard Business Review. However, many people who would benefit from the knowledge of an experienced professional feel unsure about how to find a business mentor.
A business mentor is a person who shares one of the most valuable assets in any professional setting—experience—with someone who is new to the business world or a particular line of work. Whether sharing insight on the finer points of office politics or outlining a career path that leads to a dream job, mentors help less experienced workers navigate their work environments and achieve their goals.
An on-the-job component is essential to learning certain aspects of business. Mentors share knowledge they gained from real-world workplace experiences. They also provide mentees with encouragement, objective advice, and a broader view of the issues and challenges that they have faced.
What makes a business mentor effective depends largely on the specific needs of the mentee, but all good mentors share some key characteristics.
A mentor doesn’t have to work at the same company as a mentee or even in the same industry, but they should have some experience in an area where the mentee is less knowledgeable. The mentor might hold a position the mentee aspires to reach, have a skill set the mentee aims to acquire, or simply display characteristics the mentee wishes to emulate.
A good mentor will provide encouragement. They should also have the confidence to speak honestly, provide constructive criticism, and tell their mentee when they’re wrong.
A mentor’s most basic role is to help the mentee succeed, so sympathy and helpfulness should guide their actions.
The following tips for finding a business mentor apply to most situations:
You might be uncertain about your long-term career path or need advice about managing a difficult employee or co-worker. Identifying some of your specific needs can help you find a mentor with relevant experience.
You might have the goal of running the company you work for someday, but if you’re an entry-level employee, you shouldn’t expect the CEO to serve as your mentor. A manager closer to your organizational level is the best choice for relevant guidance.
Interaction with a prospective mentor should be friendly but businesslike. While some mentor-mentee relationships grow into friendships over time, immediate familiarity with a business colleague or connection demonstrates a lack of professionalism.
A direct manager can serve as a role model and impart great advice, but a mentor should be someone removed from your immediate work environment. A manager you work with directly will lack an objective view of your performance, behavior, and career goals.
Current or past employees of your company will have valuable insight that is specific to your organization. If you lack contacts outside your immediate work group, consult your human resources department.
If you’re unable to find a mentor inside your organization, then networking events, business conferences, professional organizations, and trade groups all provide opportunities for meeting leaders in your industry. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn can also help you secure an introduction to an appropriate candidate.
Rather than asking someone to be your mentor, start with a smaller request: “I understand you worked in human resources before moving into sales. I’m interested in making a similar jump. Would you be willing to meet with me to share some advice?” An initial meeting will provide you with a sense of whether the prospective mentor is a good fit for you.
Once you’ve established a relationship, make a more specific request for mentorship. It might be coffee once a week or a phone call every quarter. Let the mentor know why you chose them and what you hope to get out of the relationship.
You can make the most of the mentor-mentee relationship by respecting your mentor’s time and effort. A simple thank-you note suffices for showing your appreciation, but you can honor what your mentor has done by achieving your goals and becoming a mentor yourself.
Just as business professionals gain invaluable insight from experienced mentors, business students learn priceless lessons from an experienced faculty. LSU Online’s Bachelor of Science in Business Administration program offers a top-quality business education provided by experienced and engaged faculty members—the same professionals who teach the university’s on-campus courses. Dedicated to continually supporting its students, LSU Online assigns concierges to guide them from the application process to graduation.
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