By Jo Gifford Career Choosing a mentor 4 May 2016 Learning from others is a time honoured way to fast track success and to enhance your career, whether as an entrepreneur or employee. There are a range of ways to include other people in your development and growth – from masterminds to meet ups, accountability partners to paid programmes and coaching to content consumption – all of which add tremendous value to your progress. One of the most effective ways to learn and gain valuable knowledge is to find a mentor. The mentor/mentee relationship is a key model in accelerating skills, enhancing knowledge, and building up confidence as part of personal development. According to Lourdes Martin-Rosa, American Express OPEN adviser, “mentors can be one of the most powerful weapons for an entrepreneur by providing guidance, wisdom and connections. Every entrepreneur should have a mentor for obtaining the best answers to his or her daily challenges during startup and management.” Mentoring can take place in a range of ways. Usually, there is a mutually agreed time period for the relationship, defined outcomes to work towards, and agreed parameters for feedback. Mentoring can occur in person or remotely using virtual meetings, email and social media platforms. So, what does a mentor do? Typically, mentors provide guidance, advice, practical tips, feedback and accountability; a combination which can be immensely valuable in personal and professional development. According to Diane Domeyer, Executive Director of staffing firm The Creative Group,”a mentor can serve as a sounding board at critical points throughout your career. They can provide guidance on career management you may not be able to get from other sources and an insider’s perspective on the business, as well as make introductions to key industry contacts.” Mentoring has a great deal of value for both parties. For the mentee, there is the obvious value of personal feedback and growth, as well as potential access to the mentor’s network, advocacy and personal recommendation where appropriate. For the mentor, there is the chance to develop leadership and coaching skills in order to become a better supervisor or team manager. Mentoring can also bring a great deal of personal satisfaction from aiding someone to be the best they can be, and by inspiring them to succeed. Mentoring can often be confused with coaching, and the two modalities are very similar in purpose. Typically, a mentorship arrangement is a voluntary relationship, although there are cases where a fee is agreed, and mentoring usually involves very industry specific knowledge. How to find a mentor When choosing a mentor there are some key factors to consider. – Does this person have the relevant experience to help you at this point in your career journey? – Do they share a similar value system as you? – Do you admire the person and their work? – Would they be able to speak honestly and openly with you and guide you with constructive criticism? What to look for in a mentor How can we find a mentor that has good credentials and an ability to teach? Some good rules of thumb are: – Ask for referrals and recommendations in your network for a potential mentor. – Research their track record in business. – Find out how they relate to people 1:1 and if this fits with what you need in order to be supported and challenged. – Meet with them at length prior to entering into any agreement, to make sure your dynamics together are viable. – Do your due diligence and ensure this person has the correct skill set and experience that you need. – Do you feel able to be your professional best with this person, or do you feel intimidated? Be as proactive as possible in your search for a mentor, and connect with as many experienced professionals in your field as you can. Be mindful of the charisma and influence of leaders, and find a mentor to help you progress to your next level with creativity, honesty and integrity. Photo: Mike Copping is a AAT Licenced Accountant and Yalda Nabi is currently studying AAT. They both work at Cyber Duck. Jo Gifford mentors solopreneurs to tell their business story online and to work in smarter, creative ways on www.dexterousdiva.co.uk.