I’ve been asked many times over the years to share specific professional and personal insights that enable others to benefit from my experiences. And I never took it seriously until I came across several structured online programs that demystified the process and outcomes which enabled me to establish some engagement guidelines.
I consider the mentoring experience as just another opportunity to network and build valuable connections.
The best mentor/mentee matches include clear expectations from both parties about what they want to gain from working together, honest communication about any differing objectives, and mutual respect. Mentees need to honor their mentor’s time constraints and boundaries about what the mentor is willing to provide. Mentors need to understand their mentee’s goals and values and be active listeners.
There are many interpretations of what a mentor is and what are the responsibilities to mentor someone. I approach mentoring as connecting with professionals who are looking for help in shaping and guiding them through a career objective or a specific challenge. I do this through ongoing dialog and interaction and I expect my mentoring assignments to operate via a strict means of accountability. I find it more productive to establish a road map of anticipated results during our engagement that can be measured and maintained.
As a mentor in several current engagements, I commit to an initial period of time to evaluate the extent of our working relationship, including the way in which we cooperate with each. This is the single most important quality of any mentoring arrangement. Without cooperation, we’re just going through the motions. The mentoring process demands that you genuinely care about the journey and successes, it should be important to everyone involved. How else do you justify the time and attention spent working with someone else?
Some people are lucky to have a mentor in someone they work closely with, hence learning from their experience. Others must look outside their circle, and for those there are several places to being the search.
SCORE.org: A nonprofit association of more than 13,000 volunteer counselors who individually mentor aspiring entrepreneurs and small-business owners. It also offers training, advice, workshops and resources dedicated to entrepreneur education.
MicroMentor.org: An initiative of nonprofit humanitarian agency Mercy Corps that offers free online guidance to entrepreneurs, particularly those with low incomes and limited access to business resources, and connects them with a business mentor. This is where I signed up for assignments.
SBA.gov: Ever the small-business resource, the Small Business Administration’s Mentor-Protégé program serves firms eligible for its 8(a) Business Development program, an initiative to help socially and economically disadvantaged Americans gain access to economic opportunity.
VA.gov/osdbu: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs launched its Mentor-Protégé Program to pair mentoring firms with small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans and other veteran-owned small businesses to create long-term relationships and provide business assistance.