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7 Questions to Ask When Finding a Mentor

Warren Buffett mentoring Bill GatesToday’s post is by Gwen Stewart of Outbounding.com. Here’s Gwen…

It doesn’t matter if you’re a freelancer, a small business owner, a successful entrepreneur or a corporate executive in a Fortune 500 company—a business mentor can often provide you with advice, encouragement, or insight, helping to improve your business skills or ensuring that you stay firmly rooted on the path to success. Finding a mentor may seem like a difficult task, but by asking yourself or your proposed mentor a few questions, you’ll be better equipped to determine if that particular individual is well suited to be a great mentor, or if you should keep looking.

1. What Are You Looking For in a Mentor?

This is a question you first need to ask yourself before finding a mentor. Do you need someone to offer you advice on starting your business and keeping it running smoothly? Or would you be better served by a mentor that can offer you encouragement and show you how to stay motivated? Perhaps both? By understanding what your ultimate goals and business objectives are, as well as your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll have a better idea of what you need in a mentor.

2. Does Your Mentor Listen to You?

A good mentor can offer you great advice, but they also need to listen to you. If you are talking to a proposed mentor and feel that they are not really listening to your ideas, questions or concerns, then they might not be the best choice. How can someone help you if they aren’t really listening to you? Sure, they might still possess tons of experience and be able to provide you with good advice, but each business is unique, and you want advice that takes your own business and personal issues into account.

3. Is Your Mentor Positive or Negative?

To prolong a good relationship with your mentor, you’ll require a mentor who regularly exhibits good energy and a positive attitude. Negative energy will rub off on you, and cause interference in your own work ethics and daily routine. A mentor who displays positive energy leads by example, fostering motivation and dispensing words of encouragement, even in stressful situations. A positive mentor will try to find a solution to a problem, rather than let stress, frustration and anger block their ability to thoughtfully develop a solution.

4. Is Your Mentor Going to Be Accessible?

You might have a great candidate in mind for a mentor, but if he isn’t going to be available to you, then he won’t be very helpful. Obviously a mentor will not be able to accommodate you at your immediate request—they do have their own lives and responsibilities—but when finding a mentor you’ll at least want some assurance that they’ll be willing to meet with you on occasion, return your phone calls in a timely fashion, and possibly even take time out of their own busy schedule to help you with an important issue.

5. Is Your Mentor Experienced Enough?

Some people find mentors among their friends and family, others find mentors in a more experienced co-worker or even a business associate from another company or organization. But if you are attempting to find a mentor that can help provide advice and guidance specifically related to your own business environment and activities, you’ll want a mentor who has sufficient related experience. A mentor may be full of great advice, but if they are not very knowledgeable about the specifics of your business, then you’ll be doing yourself a disservice in not seeking a mentor that can offer more specific advice.

6. Do I Need More Than One Mentor?

Finding a mentor that can encompass everything you need in a mentor can be difficult. Sometimes you’ll find yourself having to compromise, accepting am mentor who has some of the qualifications and personality traits you require, but not all. Other times it may be necessary to find additional mentors. For example, you might be comfortable with one mentor who is exceptional at helping you overcome stress and stay motivated. Another mentor might not be able to do that for you in the same capacity, but may possess ample knowledge of your business and be well suited to help you with specific business advice and problem solving solutions.

7. Does Your Mentor Care About Your Success?

When finding a mentor, you’ll want to have a mentor who is genuinely interested in your future success. It’s a good thing to find a good mentor to provide you with advice and encouragement; it’s a great thing to find a mentor who really takes the time to invest their support in helping you develop a better future for yourself. It may take time to build such a relationship, especially if you and the mentor don’t have any previous personal history together. But over time, you’ll be able to determine if your mentor is truly happy to be helpful to you, or if he is just going about the paces.

- Gwen Stewart is a business development professional and writer for Outbounding.com on behalf of ShareFile. Her line of work requires she have a reliable way to upload files online as well as a solid strategy for meeting tight deadlines. Any spare time she can scrape together finds her hiking, reading and enjoying the company of great friends.

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