What is mentorship?
This relationship is often defined as being between two people, with the mentor acting as a trusted guide for the mentee. A learning opportunity, good mentor relationships are often ongoing and developed over time. Unlike coaching, which is typically a shorter and more focused relationship (learn more here), mentorship is a reflective relationship that is deeply personalized and often not as specific to one particular goal. When connecting with a mentor, you may focus on your entrepreneurial goals specifically or connect about overall life experiences.
Who can be my mentor?
While there are formal programs that sometimes provide specific mentorship connections, the relationships can also occur informally. It is likely that you have had someone serve as a mentor in your life. This person may have asked you intentional questions, encouraged reflection when discussing your hopes and goals, or served as a role model from a distance, modeling behavior with their actions that you aspire to be like in some way within your own life.
Think about the people who have served as mentors, or inspiration in your life, what are some of the qualities of the relationship(s) and how did it grow over time? A mentor can be close in age or stage of life to you, but is often assumed to be more knowledgeable in some way.
When the time feels right for you, ask someone to be your mentor – identify who in your network best aligns with your goals and lived experiences and reach out to them. Consider including the following details:
- Why you are seeking mentorship
- why you think they’re the right mentor for you
- What they might gain from being your mentor
- How you’d like to structure the relationship.
Ideally, mentorship is…
- Mutually beneficial for everyone involved (the mentor and the mentee)
- Something that can enhance your career and personal development, and encourages social skills
- A learning opportunity that is directed by the mentee.
Keep in mind: a mentor is not there to do the work for you, and a mentor should not have a seat on your board or receive monetary gain from your venture.
If seeking mentorship, consider:
What are some broad goals/outcomes you might want from this ongoing relationship? If the goals you identify are very specific and narrow, they might be better suited for coaching.
How comfortable are you sharing your experience and reflecting? Mentorship requires active listening, consideration of multiple perspectives and individual efforts to get the most benefit out of the conversations.
Are there people that you already consider mentors in your life? If yes, you can consider how to more regularly connect with that individual. If someone inspires you but doesn’t have the capacity to engage in ongoing mentorship, they might recommend someone else within their network that could also help provide perspective.
How to be a mentor?
As a mentor, you accept personal responsibility to help the growth of others without needing the end result –i.e. the personal growth of your mentee—to look a specific way. Competency, trustworthiness, and a time commitment are all expectations of someone acting as a mentor. Specific functions, can include:
- Relational: understanding and development of trust
- Informative: plans and progress as it relates to goals; guide by asking questions
- Facilitate: new options, alternative views; expanded learning and perspectives
- Confront: respectfully challenge [if/when appropriate]
- Mentor as a role model
- Encourage vision of the mentee; increased ownership for current and future goals
It takes a team! This resource was created for humans, by humans. A huge thanks to all of the humans that made this possible, including: Brittany Martin, Courtney Huynh, Lauren Dunning, Marissa Scragg,