Business mentors can help you run your business smarter and provide you with valuable advice you won’t find anywhere else.

As business owners or employees, we could all use a little help. When a mentor gives you advice about what companies to apply to or what field to go in to, you gratefully take the advice. The advice of a trusted friend or business colleague can help guide your career. Once you have the position, continue the mentor relationship throughout your career.

The mentor may be a trusted colleague in your field or even the person you share a cubicle with at work. The mentor has two key skills. A good mentor can give you advice that is relevant. Mentors are good listeners. A mentor will listen to what you have a problem with and guide you towards a solution. Mentors will not and should not solve your problems. You are in charge of your career.

By listening to the advice of a mentor, you will develop the skills needed to make the tough decisions. When you make a decision about which job to take, you are the one who has to go to work each day and do the job.

When Do You Need a Mentor?

Mentors can help you at all stages of your career... college, first job, changing careers, going to graduate school, finding an internship or running a business. Industry and community leaders want to give back to younger workers. Likely, the person who mentors you was once guided by someone else.

Finding a Mentor

Think back to finding a college. Did you do all your research alone? Probably not. You asked advice from your parents, your high school guidance counselor, and the admissions staff at the college of your choice. By collating all this advice, you were able to make an informed decision.

Mentoring After College -- Some college students graduate with a clear goal for a career choice. Undergraduate business majors have any number of fields of work at their fingertips. For those with a college degree in a less well-defined degree area, for instance, English, communications, art or drama, meeting with a mentor might steer you in the direction of a career you had not previously considered.

Where will you find a mentor after college graduation? You can search online for mentorship programs within industry groups. Industry-focused groups have local chapters. Often, industry groups will offer student or young person discounts. By joining an industry group, you will meet many professionals in your possible chosen field. Go to social occasions or mixers. Dress professionally. Bring business cards or a resume.

As you chat with someone at the mixer, ask questions about their field, what the job entails, and the possibilities for advancement. Collect business cards. After the gathering send a follow up email to one or two of the people you meet. Take the opportunity to ask questions, and ask them to describe their career path. Listen intently; people love talking about themselves, and will be happy to share experience and advice with a young person who's willing to listen. When you are ready to find a new job or seek a promotion, consult with your mentor on their thoughts.

Mentoring To Change Job Fields -- The job you thought would be perfect at 22 may not be what you need at 30. With job experience under your belt, you may find that you are topped out with few promotions available to you.

Consult with trusted colleagues within your company or competitors. As you consider changing careers or moving from technician to management, ask colleagues questions about the career you want to transfer to. As you start conversations with your mentor, ask the following questions:

  • Why did you pursue a career in this field?
  • What are the prospects for promotion?
  • On average, what is the annual raise?
  • Is the company you work for receptive to employees who offer suggestions for improving company procedures?
  • What is the retention rate for employees?

How Can a Mentor Help You

A good mentor will ask open-ended questions. He will ask you specific questions about what your aspirations are. By having a series of conversations with your mentor, you might realize that management is not for you after hearing about the many problems facing managers.

A good mentor will ask questions that are more than “Yes” or “No.” As you have discussions with your mentor, explore all aspects of the field you are considering entering. Your mentor is most likely a leader in your field. Experts in the field, particularly mentors, want to share their knowledge with you.