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Become a Valuable Business Mentor

Share your expertise by establishing a rewarding connection.

A business mentor who shares experience-based knowledge and lessons learned can make a significant difference in the success of an entrepreneur just starting out. Mentoring allows you to "pay it forward", or to perhaps become the mentor you wished you had early in your career. The best mentor/mentee relationships are mutually beneficial: The mentee will learn from your experience, but it's likely you'll learn as well, perhaps about new technologies or how to best use social media.

Here are some tips for becoming a mentor:

Find the Right Mentee

Chances are, by reaching out to your network of contacts, you will uncover an entrepreneur who would benefit from your counsel. Express your interest in mentoring opportunities in conversations with colleagues and on social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook to ask your past and present colleagues for recommendations. You can also search Meetup (www.meetup.com) to look for opportunities within your professional interest groups.

Get to know the potential mentee, either face-to-face or by exchanging emails, before broaching the topic of mentoring. Make sure you and your potential mentee are a good fit. Ask about the person's business experience, goals, strengths and weaknesses to ensure you are able to provide the type of help needed. If you feel like you've found someone with whom you click and with whom you believe you could help grow professionally, let them know you're available to answer their questions or participate in brainstorming sessions. If they're receptive, the door is open to a more formal mentorship, with regular meetings and correspondence.

To find someone who is actively looking to be mentored, options include contacting your local Chamber of Commerce or the nonprofit SCORE Association (www.SCORE.org), which matches more than 13,000 volunteer mentors with mentees throughout the United States. Business-specific websites such as IdeaCrossing (www.ideacrossing.org) help mentors and mentees connect virtually.

Establish Ground Rules

As a mentor, your role is to guide and offer suggestions, but ultimately the mentee is responsible for his or her own actions. If you believe the mentee is making a mistake, by all means offer your opinion, but don't push too hard. Often mentees learn the most from their mistakes.

However, do stress your commitment to acting as a sounding board, and honor that promise by listening carefully to whatever concerns or problems the mentee is facing.

Decide how often to meet--whether face to face or virtually--and how accessible you'll be for questions. Set ground rules regarding your availability on weekends and after business hours.

Be a Role Model

The best mentors practice what they preach. But that doesn't mean a good mentor has never made mistakes. Be honest about things you've done that did not work out the way you had hoped. You'll build credibility and provide a learning experience.

 


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