Finding a mentor isn’t easy and not every person you admire is perfect for the task. In a recent online panel, we asked our experts in small business and leadership what qualities effective mentors share. Here’s what they suggest.
1. They’ve solved the problems you’re facing right now. Find someone who understands what you’ve gone through, says Poornima Vijayashanker, the founder of Femgineer, an education startup that supports women in tech and leadership. A potential mentor might not be in your field, but the ideal match will have experience facing issues you’re researching right now, such as raising funding or building a customer base.
2. They fit the stage you’re in. Don’t be afraid to look to new advisors as your business grows. Maria Contreras-Sweet launched several businesses before becoming administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, including launching a much-needed Latino-founded bank in California. She says that she often needed different mentors at different times to help her think the right way about legal or financial issues. These can be friends that you lean on, says Contreras-Sweet, a sort of ‘kitchen cabinet’ of advisors you can call on depending on that day’s challenge.
3. They know you well. Jenn Piepszak, a national sales executive at Chase says that most of her mentors wouldn’t self-identify as a ‘mentor’ but that she looks to them all the same for support and guidance. Tap into those who know you best and understand the context for the situations you really face.