Women entering the business world are told they need to have a mentor to make it to the top. A business mentor can be someone at your current firm, a professor in college or even a high-powered CEO of a well-known company. Partnering with someone for a lifetime of learning is worthwhile, but the road may be hard to start.
Hilary Burns of Bizwomen has some ideas to help you find a mentor. Having a business mentor can be rewarding for several reasons. It helps to know someone who has climbed to the top of the corporate ladder who lets you in on some tools of the trade. A practical teacher has your back, confidentially, through the good times and bad. Choosing a mentor and convincing him to follow through is the crucial first step.
Be direct with the person you want as your business mentor. Sometimes, you may not even look for such a person, and then a relevant person falls into your cubicle to become your teacher. Venessa Harrison of AT&T decided she wanted a promotion from her boss, and she was very succinct and direct as to the reasons why she deserved a promotion. The go-getting attitude won Harrison a new position and new guide.
When a CEO tells you that he can be your mentor, but you and he live on opposite coasts of the United States, make it a point to meet your inspirational person at his office before starting the mentorship.
Find a mentor with similar interests. If you want to run a bakery, find someone in a leadership position at a baked goods company. If you want to be a tech startup junkie, find a tech guru who runs a similar small company that you envision. Meeting a guide with similar interests and professional passions means you already have something in common to talk about.
While having a guide is good, Burns advises that you do not annoy, bother or torment him. A business mentor is busy, too, and he has a business to run. When you are in observation mode, just watch and listen before asking questions during a lull in the action.
Trust characterizes the key relationship between a mentor and an underling. A higher-up should be able to trust you with details that no one else should know. Discovering minutiae of running a business is the whole point of having a mentor by your side. Return the favor by entrusting your guide with your honest, inner thoughts. Be willing to communicate, take your mentor's advice and put it to use in your everyday life.
A business mentor represents a key stepping stone on your journey through the corporate world. A guide can help you avoid mistakes and pitfalls that may doom other business professionals. After the mentorship officially ends, make sure to stay in contact with your teacher and relate your own success stories.
Photo courtesy of Eileen Kane at Flickr.com