Business Mentor – It Goes Both Ways
If you were not aware, January is National Mentoring Month. Mentoring is something that is near to my heart. I have created two mentoring programs and led a couple more. I think mentoring is so very important and is in line with the “it takes a village” belief for growth in any person, young and mature. I have a continued pursuit for the right business mentor for me – in the meantime, I will preach the gospel of being a good mentor.
One of the easiest ways to be a business mentor is within your company. As a company leader, people are looking to you for direction anyway. This is a good opportunity to influence someone’s career and even hold yourself accountable to your own beliefs professionally and personally. This is one of my favorite aspects of owning a business with staff!
At one time, I mulled over some mentoring possibilities to influence younger people without neglecting my own children or family. Some more possibilities for business professionals to mentor include (listed in order of increasing responsibility):
- Speak about your business expertise at your children’s school. You never know how your story will influence the sponge-y minds of children. Your 20 minute talk may open possibilities that didn’t exist for them previously which is an unforgettable moment for them. The future for them, you and your community could be forever changed by your one act. Seriously.
- Join leadership or speak at meetings of local professional or college professional development groups. Members of these groups seek new information at every monthly meeting. Information you are able to give would increase their knowledge in an area in which they may sorely lack. Making an appearance on a regular basis (which could be quarterly), may give others the picture of something to strive after.
- Volunteer with or sponsor a local Future Business Leaders of America and/or Junior Achievement chapter. These organizations are ripe with young people who are vested and interested in business. They would be an open audience for what you do. You could also simply volunteer with your local school district.
- Become a Girl Scout or Boy Scout Leader. Scouts participate in a variety of activities to shape their character. They usually meet once per week, and engage with one or two leaders in their club. Commitment depends on your role. FYI – I’ve been a leader in Cub Scouts for the last three years 🙂
- Become a Big Sister or Big Brother. This would involve one on one mentoring of a child who has been deemed in need for this type of attention (not necessarily “at-risk”). Commitment is about four dedicated hours per month.
- Foster a child (or two). Good foster parents are in dire need throughout the country. Welcoming a child into your home… your sanctuary… one who is likely experiencing major turbulence at home… could do more to shape their lives than any other experience they have had thus far. Usually there are no additional financial expenses for bringing a child in your home and typically you will receive payment (one reason people do it who really shouldn’t be). You must consider the implications for anyone currently in your home but I’m sure the experience would be rewarding for all involved – in some way you will grow and so will that child.
Beyond these formal opportunities, there are always the informal prospects of making sure you speak to your siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, and neighborhood kids on a regular basis – asking about their interests and where they are going with them as well as letting them know what you do and how you got there… share stories that they can relate to like people used to do way back when.
When you want to have a mentor, it’s imperative that you BE a mentor. How can you expect for someone to give to you and you don’t give to anyone else? Being a mentor also helps set expectations for what that relationship could look like when the shoe is on the other foot. Frankly, you may attract a mentor just by the initiative you show at being a good mentor.
To find a business mentor, identify people who have a career similar to what you want and possibly similar life circumstances. Contact them, introduce yourself, share information that helps their goals and ask questions that can help you get closer to your goals over a few points of contact. Do this would be after you add them to a spreadsheet, or put together a profile sheet so you can have a clear understanding of why the person would make a good mentor for you.
If you have a mentor and you have not taken the time to thank them, please use January to show your full appreciation. Actually, January 21 is Thank Your Mentor Day so you can use it to write a blog post, take an ad out in the newspaper, post a video on Youtube or just give them a phone call to share your appreciation for the influence they had on your life.
Do you have ideas for how to become a mentor or solicit a mentor(s)? Please share them in the comments.