No matter which name you mention, a list of 21st century business successes always includes people who have been mentored by other industry figures. We often forget in the wake of successful people like Steve Jobs and Larry Page, that business acumen must be cultivated in order for it to grow into something that benefits the world. Mentorship has been a common thread for all significant business minds of the 20th and 21st centuries, and the same has likely been going on for centuries. Homer’s “The Odyssey” introduced the world to “Mentor”, the character who oversaw Odysseus’s household and taught his son.
Today, mentoring is much more available and versatile in its organization than in Homer’s time. The internet allows communications to happen from across the globe, in written or audible form. Mentorship relationships can be carried out across a bar top, or through a computer screen continents away. The main thing is that the contact be regular and organized. People who benefit the most from mentorship do so because of regular, intentional contact with their mentor. If you are pursuing such a relationship, be clear about the terms. Agree to meet at regular intervals, and make sure the relationship offers something valuable to both parties.
Make sure you work with a mentor who knows everything there is to know about your field. There may be older people who you click with socially, and they may be wise. But unless your mentor is intimately familiar with all the ins and outs of your business world, you won’t get out of the relationship what you need. If you pick a good one, however, your mentor will be able to provide you context, something that no amount of independent reading and learning could communication.
The benefits of mentorship include Advice at how to deal with complicated situations, a perspective of experience, a chance to improve your skills, many networking opportunities, methods and strategies for many different business problems, a relationship that lasts for years or decades, encouragement and confidence. This last point is especially important. Because business professionals have to spend so much of their time attending to other people’s needs, it’s important to have someone help take care of their needs. Many business people miss out on this important relationship dynamic in their everyday lives.
This only scratches the surface of the use a mentor can be to a mentee. In many cases, the benefits aren’t directly tangible. Mentors may just be able to offer the right words to help unlock the best path forward during a trying time. They may be a helpful sounding board, someone you can say things to that you’d otherwise have to keep bottled up. They may be able to see through the complexities and politics of an important decision, in order to help find the best path forward. Or they might simply help you look at a problem from a new perspective, whether or not they offer specific advice. In summation, a mentor is important for all people who want to be a growing success in their business field.