Finding a mentor is an essential part of a being a well-rounded professional; one who never stops learning about themselves and their profession. Being self-employed makes it easy to mistakenly spend years focusing too much on your career: networking, marketing, and general daily business tasks; slowly losing sight of who you are as a person.
A common question most entrepreneurs will find themselves pondering is this: Why did I choose my career path in the first place? Having a mentor that relates to your struggles (one who has been through them and made it out) will help drive you forward. The right mentor renews your focus as to why you are –where you are — in the first place.
So, what should you look for in professional mentors? Isn’t that what friends and family are for? Not quite. Consider the following tips in order to find your ideal mentor.
Two mentors are better than one.
People that come from varied life backgrounds communicate differently and ultimately have a different message. Whether you diversify your mentors based on gender, personality type, etc. the point is to receive more than one message. I say this because, sometimes you can receive the same answer from two different people, but it is delivered in two distinct ways.
Find one mentor that tends to be much more direct when giving small business advice and direction. Meanwhile, select an additional mentor that tends to be more in-depth (and not as direct in their communication style) to help you consider all facets of a particular topic.
Look for a mentor outside of your industry.
It may seem pointless to have mentors that work in an outside industry, but business advice gleaned from different experiences and other industry backgrounds may be more rewarding. This allows you to think outside the box as a professional. Both of your professions are bound to touch on the same ground in some way; such as being self-employed or connecting on building client relationships. An “outsider” perspective can be very fulfilling and insightful.
Make sure your would-be mentor is balanced.
The more important aspect of mentorship is someone who can continually teach you something new. This doesn’t necessarily come from someone who has many years of professional experience – although that is always a plus. Finding someone who is close enough in age to relate, yet old enough to have years of experience is a perfect balance. Focus on connecting professionally, as well as on a personal level, and it will increase the longevity and success of your mentor/mentee relationship.
The next time you are stuck on making an important business decision or need personal development advice on your professional life, open your ears to others that have been through the same struggles. Finding a level of happiness and appreciation in your career, and learning how to manage it, empowers you to become a well-rounded professional.
Emily Chalk is Senior Managing Partner at East of Ellie, an events company, a Stamford, CT based events agency. She began her career in the experiential marketing world organizing events for Fortune 500 companies and high profile clientele and now thrives on creating unique and personal experiences that help her clients build their brands. A businesswoman to the core, she has a special love and expertise for cause marketing, and has become a big player in the industry by bringing a new angle to a companies cause marketing mix. East of Ellie leverages events as a way to showcase and drive awareness of companies cause marketing efforts. Connect with @EASTOFELLIE on Twitter.