Mentors can help build connections and confidence, but they should be ready for a lot of work. Most of us spend the majority of our day at work which means we invest most of our time in work relationships, figuring out how to best communicate and collaborate, how to succeed, and how to overcome our failures. It can be lonely to start your own business. There’s a ton of ups and downs, successes and failed dreams. Some successful entrepreneurs try to forget their past challenges but it’s best to think about them regularly and reflect and sometimes that means working with a mentor.

As more and more work continues to take place outside of the traditional office, mentors are becoming increasingly valuable, especially for those who would like help with parts of their new or mature business that need work. According to a recent study of 3,000 U.S. workers, 76 percent of people surveyed think mentors are important, but only 37 percent currently have a mentor. Founders and employees are hungry for someone to show them how to navigate the working world. That burden used to land on a boss or a more senior coworker. In this new world of work, there are a lot of people that no longer have a boss and here enters the mentor/mentee relationship.

How to nail the mentor-mentee relationship

Take it seriously 

Treat your mentor/mentee relationship as seriously as you would any business relationship. Agree on set times to meet, and keep those meetings. Make an effort to value the other person’s time. After all, you did see great value in how your mentor is running their business and it inspired you to transform your own. As a mentor, you wouldn’t have accepted this position unless you weren't serious about helping others, so use these valuable meetings to truly change someone’s life.

Do the work

Use your time to strategically plan your next professional steps. Don’t be afraid to give your mentees homework, then once they’ve completed it, you can set up your next meeting. Being a mentor is a truly selfless role, so make it worth your while and theirs by giving your mentee all of the information they need to succeed. 

Set boundaries

Some people believe a free-of-charge mentor/mentee relationship is key while some felt the need to charge for their time. On both sides, it comes down to a question of comfort level, resources, and the right chemistry.

Five musts for mentors and mentees

Adopt a growth mindset. 

When faced with doubt and uncertainty, people that survive and thrive are those who can adapt and embrace where they are right now and allow growth to take place. When you feel this way, know that you’re pushing yourself. Sometimes forcing the action and forcing the pain makes growth and realizing that you’ll never know everything keeps you constantly seeking knowledge.

Ask questions

Want to be a better entrepreneur? Ask around and be specific with what you want to know. Once you put yourself in a position to see how it’s done, then you have a better understanding of what entrepreneurship really is, and what questions to ask. Even if you think you know the answers, sometimes getting someone else's perspective can add value to yours.

Be coachable 

This really goes hand-in-hand with the first two. When people do connect with you, you have to be coachable. You have to be willing to listen and take advice while being humble. Sometimes people aren’t ready for that. They think they want a mentor, but they’re okay doing things their way and getting the same results. Let this be your superpower, being coachable.

Share resources. 

If people ask for resources, it’s ok to share it with them. Whatever they need, you’ll end up with a resource pool with information being shared back and forth since people understand the value you’ve given them and they’ll want to do the same.

Be transparent

People always talk about how great their business is but nobody really talks about the numbers. It’s always great when you can be transparent. Even if it’s just, ‘I’m just starting out, but this is how much I’ve made. It’s not a lot, but this is my plan to move forward. People appreciate the transparency and love when they can relate to other entrepreneurs, no matter where they are in their own journey. 

In Closing

If you’re lucky enough to secure a mentor, paid or pro bono, you’ve truly humbled yourself in taking your business to the next level. For a lot of people, it’s hard to ask for help and this goes for brand new and seasoned businesses. Not all mentors are created equal but if you’re looking for new insight and see your mentor’s business doing things the way you'd like, then it can definitely be worth it. 

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