Women Business Owners: How to be a Mentor
You're a successful business owner, and you want to share your hard-earned knowledge and experience with another up-and-coming woman in business. Being a mentor to another female entrepreneur is a big responsibility. How do you know if becoming a mentor is right for you, and how do you become one?
Arranged with thought and care, you will find the mentoring experience to be rewarding and inspiring. Some things to think about before deciding to mentor someone include:
Do you have the time? We’re all very busy, but with the right structure, a mentoring relationship doesn’t have to take up a lot of time.
Can you be open about your business and experiences? A good mentoring relationship is based on honesty and a degree of openness so the information exchanged is valuable and not just something one could read in a book or magazine article.
Can you keep information confidential? If you’re not sure that you can hold what your mentee tells you in confidence, you may want to reconsider mentoring. While mentors certainly aren’t held to the same standards as a physician or lawyer, trust is essential between a mentor and mentee for the relationship to flourish.
Do you have relevant experience? Make sure you understand what a prospective mentee really needs. Be clear about how you can actually help or what you know that could be beneficial to her. You don’t have to be in the same industry to mentor someone. You just need to have information, experience or contacts she doesn’t have.
There are many ways to identify someone to mentor - from reading your local or trade paper to speaking with colleagues and asking for referrals. You can find a mentee in a variety of places and situations. Your potential mentee could be:
- A member of your staff at your company.
- Someone you have met at a networking event.
- A recent college graduate entering the workplace - or even a high school student.
- A family member, friend or business associate.
- A woman in need such as a woman in a homeless shelter or domestic violence shelter.
Once you’ve decided you’d like to be a mentor, tell people that you are looking for a mentee. You’ll find that people are happy to refer you to someone to mentor. Often potential mentees are not even sure whom to approach or how to engage a potential mentor, so your overture is likely to be well received. Your challenge might be to narrow down the candidates in order to choose the right one for you.
Clearly outline why you want to be a mentor. Define how much time you are willing to give and the most convenient manner in which you can impart your wisdom.
You can mentor in person, but these days mentoring by phone, email, online video, and other digital means is common. Whichever way you decide is best for you to mentor, make sure you stick to your commitment. If you are afraid to make a long-term commitment, offer to mentor for a shorter period of time.
As a mentor, establish boundaries and keep the mentoring relationship on a professional level. Your mentee might become your friend, but never lose sight of why you began the relationship or make a mutual decision to be friends at some point instead of mentor and mentee.
Before becoming a mentor, understand that mentors should not:
- Try to prove how smart they are or show off their knowledge.
- Claim to know all the answers.
- Try to mold their protégée to be just like them.
- Be a shoulder to cry on. This doesn’t mean you don’t acknowledge emotion, but a mentor should not be a substitute for a therapist.
Don’t expect instant gratification from mentoring. The results of mentoring do not show up overnight.
Overall, mentoring relationships are powerful ways to pass on knowledge and the wisdom gained through years of experience. Don't be surprised if you learn as much, if not more, than your mentee. No matter where you are in your career, being a mentor can be as rewarding for you as it is for the person you guide and inspire