If you were to ask a group of young professionals or entrepreneurs to mention something to aid their success, the following two things may be at the top of their list — funding and mentorship.
While there are many sources of funding, mentorship continues to be as elusive as the secrets of the wind.
Although there are books to read and classes to attend on how to run a successful business or grow a career, both, though important, can’t quite compare to having somebody walk beside you to guide you.
This is what mentorship is all about: Having an experienced person share his or her knowledge and skills with a less experienced person in order to enhance their business or career?
IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A MENTOR
The concept of mentorship comes from Homer’s classic poem ‘The Odyssey’. The poem relates the story of King Odysseus, who was preparing for war.
Given that he was going to be apart from his son, Telemachus, the King decided to have someone take care of his son, and be his teacher, adviser and friend. The guardian’s name was called ‘Mentor’.
King Odysseus understood the importance of having a guide. And it is important for each of us, no matter how old, to have a mentor.
The main benefit of having a mentor is that one is able to ask questions and seek advice. You don’t have to go through an experience to learn from it.
You can learn the same thing from other people’s experience and a mentor fulfils that role. Mentorship also changes perspectives and inspires new ideas.
Our own perspectives are shaped by various factors around us beginning with our family backgrounds.
Having someone view your problems with a different set of eyes could be the beginning of your solution. Mentors also act as sounding boards.
When we are faced with frustrating or difficult issues that cannot be shared with our business partners or fellow employees for fear of risking our businesses or careers, mentors become the people you can approach to talk things over.
They might also be your big-break, connecting you with their network which might lead to your next job or a stepping stone to promotion.
Mentorship suggests a one-sided relationship where the protégé gets everything for free. This is certainly not the case.
Mentorship can benefit the mentor too. So, why should you consider being a mentor? As for the protégé, the mentor can learn new perspectives from the younger counterparts.
It not only enables you to nurture someone else but also allows you to reflect on your career or your own way of doing business, and thereby provides personal satisfaction.
Mentorship challenges you to develop and use your leadership or communication skills, your talents and perhaps even discover new ones.
It also exposes you to the protégé’s networks, which could be of great value to you. Finally, mentorship allows you to give back to society. Giving back doesn’t have to be grandiose: It can start with one person.
Mentorship, therefore, entails symbiotic collaboration between the mentor and protégé that should lead to changes in insight, decisions, planning and stimulate action.
For the relationship to be successful, it has to be proactive and based on trust. There must be a common goal and a clear way of reaching it, mutual trust to facilitate transparent information exchange and a willingness of the protégé to act on the advice given.
Finding a good mentor can be a challenge, particularly some are too busy or they have been disappointed by previous protégés.
For those seeking mentors, we have to show that we are worth their time.
We can do this by knowing what we need and begin to work towards these goals. Likewise, mentors require patience and trustworthiness.
And while mentorship is about mentors sharing from their wealth of experience with a hope of imparting the same on their protégé, great mentorship goes beyond that.
A good mentor will provide positive reinforcement towards their protégé’s talent by bringing out their best in their wards, enabling the latter to achieve their potential, and nurture strengths and skills they never knew they had.
I entreat you to heed this call: The next Steve Jobs might be latent somewhere but may only require a few words of encouragement to realise their full potential.
Ms Wanjohi is the founder, Mazingira Safi Initiative. [email protected]