While many entrepreneurs and career driven people credit their success to having mentors there are few who don’t see the necessity of having one particular or personal mentor. Here’s what to consider
Mentors are defined as experienced or trusted advisors who help a young or less experienced person for a certain period of time, especially when it comes to their career or their business. Mentors do play a vital role in the development and to an extent the probability of your success story. The great thing about them is that they give you different perspectives on the direction you should take and guidance based on their knowledge and experience. The world’s renowned and self-made billionaires credit a part of their success to having mentors. Did you know that Apple founder, Steve Jobs was Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg’s mentor and billionaire investor, Warren Buffet was Bill Gate’s mentor? The Microsoft co-founder even once said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others”. Even media mogul Oprah Winfrey was mentored by the late poet and political activist, Maya Angelou and mentioned that nobody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship. Getting the right mentor is the same as establishing any healthy relationship. If anything mentors shouldn’t be confused with people who spoon feed you every step of the way. You have to also show initiative, drive and hard work because mentors have their own careers, businesses and personal lives to deal with. We all need help at some point in our lives and in our careers to get ahead. Doing it on your own may seem honourable, but the route might be longer, lonelier and filled with unnecessary mistakes that a mentor could guide you from. Based on the above definition I have had some great women in my life that were generous with information, career advice and that support system that I needed to get ahead in my career. Although I don’t feel I am where I envisioned I would be by now, I am glad that I at least started my race and raised my hand to ask for guidance and help along the way. I must say it’s not that easy finding a good mentor but value them if you have them. I believe in having a mentor but I also believe in getting inspirational material, such as books, documentaries and quotes from the people I look up to who are inaccessible because of the demands imposed on them.
Even with the power of mentorship, it’s important to note down honest reasons why you need a mentor. Such conversations with yourself will help you identify what kind of help you need and how long you will need it. Mentorship should also be a fair trade because great leaders who want to empower others want to see results from you. If anything you don’t want to waste their time, the most precious asset they don’t take for granted. While the necessity of having a mentor is a personal decision many successful people stress the importance of having guidance on their journey to success. With that said, not every successful business person or MD will have the time nor the interest to mentor you but that shouldn’t dampen your hunger to succeed; just like any rejection shouldn’t discourage you to the point of giving up. When I started out my career in the media industry I was interning at a publication run by a woman who I looked up to my whole life. She didn’t agree to my request of getting career guidance from her personally but the opportunity I got to be surrounded by her and her driven team motivated me somehow. Regardless of the outcome, I am proud of raising my hand and asking for help.
From recent experiences I also learned how important it is to agree with your potential mentor on what mentorship means to both of you to avoid misunderstandings that might cost you your relationship with them. Some honestly believe it’s enough to give you a job and not invest in the growth and guidance you initially asked for. Things can get sticky so you really have to be clear on what boundaries you have to set and respect. While working at my previous job for a boss who I asked mentorship from I decided to start a blog on the side just to get the ball rolling. Since she always encouraged entrepreneurship to us and since it’s the route I disclosed to her even before working for her I decided to take her advice seriously. I was oblivious to the fact that that initiative would cost me my job. Shocked and poisoned with regret for my decision I almost discarded the blog and the vision to have a business. But since I had no other stream of income and anything else to do I continued with it. Nothing is as lonely and terrifying than trying to fulfil an entrepreneurial dream because unlike having a 9 to 5 you really have to rely on yourself without a steady salary. For seven months, I had no form of income. But unlike in 2015 where I was without a job, things were hard as I had bills to pay and limited resources to grow my brand. Getting to the top of your career or business is not easy but I believe that this is where mentorship steps in. Your family and friends might be your cheerleaders but the support from someone who’s traveled the road you find yourself in is vital.
I believe mentors are important, I just don’t think it has to be a particular individual nor does it have to be someone you know personally. Some of my mentors are people who have no idea I exist but I follow their careers and lives and learn from their journey. For me, the mentor and mentee relationship should be a natural progression and not a forced thing that necessarily requires titles. Find your person/people and start learning. I think many young people stop at the stumbling block of “I don’t have a mentor” and that can’t be the excuse for not getting on with it and finding other avenues to gain guidance and advice.”
Importantly, I believe that no matter how much you excel working solo there comes a point where help can take you far. Our African proverb, which states that doing it alone gets you ahead quicker, but doing it together takes you far, couldn’t be truer. So, do you need a mentor to succeed? The answer lies in an honest conversation with yourself.
What is your experience on mentorship? Share in the comments below: