Everyone should have a mentor. You are never too powerful or successful to have one and they can benefit you at any age.
Oprah Winfrey named a childhood teacher called Mrs Duncan as one of her most important mentors. She explained how Mrs Duncan encouraged her to embrace her intelligence and not be afraid of it. She credited the teacher for a large chunk of her success, due to the part she played in encouraging her to love learning.
There will always be people who can offer you valuable advice and guidance in different areas of your life, and at different stages of your career- but the key is to find them and of course to ask them.
I myself have had mentors during my career and I’ve also been a mentor to others – because success is never a one-man or one-woman show. In fact many of the most well-known entrepreneurs in the world credit large parts of their accomplishments to the guidance of a mentor. After dropping out of Harvard, Bill Gates says it was his mentor and investor, Warren Buffet, who took the time to give him invaluable business advice.
It is National Mentoring Day on October 27th – a day founded by award-winning business mentor Chelsey Baker, to raise awareness of the rewards and benefits of mentoring and to encourage more people to get involved. One of the most important things a mentor can do is not only guide you using their knowledge of success, but also highlight some of the mistakes they have made. A mentor will pass on the lessons they have learned from any mishaps or ill-judged ideas, and in doing so will help to protect you from making similar mistakes.
Aside from providing knowledge and encouragement, mentors can also help you to expand your professional network. It’s likely they will have built up a strong support system of useful contacts that they can introduce you to and these people may even turn into mentors for future projects or career changes.
As Oprah’s story shows, a mentor doesn’t necessarily need to be a much older figure or super successful CEO. It should be someone you trust and who you know has your best interests at heart. They should be compatible with you, in so far as having the same level of drive and motivation but they should challenge your thinking and help you to develop your ideas.
Having a mentor who contrasts with you in other ways can also be beneficial. They will see things from a different perspective and can push you out of your comfort zone. You really want a mentor that will encourage you to consider things you might never have even thought of.
So, where can you go to find the mentor of your dreams? If you are lucky, you might find yourself being mentored by someone you least expected without actively seeking their mentorship. It may be someone you already work with or have exposure to, who you admire and learn from. If this is the case, do not hesitate to pursue this person further and make the mentor-mentee relationship more formal.
If you don’t have a mentor yet, don’t despair. With a little bit of effort, you can seek out the right mentor to help you achieve your goals. Some companies have a mentorship programme, so this may be the perfect place to start your search. If not, you could approach a colleague, a friend or family member who you are keen to learn from and speak to them about developing a mentoring relationship.
Of course, having a mentor is a two-way street. If you want a positive relationship with your mentor and want to get the most out of them, then you also need to be a good mentee. Fully engage with all the help they offer and show a genuine interest in their advice. Take their constructive criticism on board and try to work on it to achieve greater success.
Oprah once said that a mentor is someone who allows you to see the “higher part of yourself when sometimes it becomes hidden to your own view”.
I think this is true and I also believe that when you find the right mentor you will create additional opportunities to unlock potential that you didn’t know lay hidden within.