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If you’re an entrepreneur you know by now it’s probably one of the toughest career paths you can take.  It’s especially difficult if you’re trying to do it alone. This is why in my book The Brandprint, getting a mentor is one of the tactics I recommend to help manage your mindset and keep you positive and motivated. But how do you know what makes a good mentor in business and more importantly, who makes a good mentor for you?  There are some core attributes a good mentor/mentee relationship has and I’m going to tell you 5 important boxes you should check.

The Industry

The first hack to finding an awesome mentor is to look for someone in your industry or as close to it as possible.  This person doesn’t necessarily have to have done exactly what you’re doing, but they should be in tune with your industry enough to understand its nuances. Aside from the obvious, the benefit in having someone who is similar but not necessarily exact can bring a fresh perspective on familiar situations. This helps to expand your vision and open your mind to viewing projects, outcomes and situations differently. Someone who is experienced in your industry is also the perfect connector between you and other industry professionals. Given how much I advocate for networking and relationships as key to growing your business and influence, who’s better to introduce to industry movers and shakers than someone who already has those relationships?

Their Energy

The second hack is to look for someone who matches your personality and energy.  Having technical knowledge is one thing, but meshing in terms of personality is super important for success. For example, if you’re a talkative and engaging person it might not be the best idea to seek out a mentor who is reserved and doesn’t speak much. This mismatch in personality can be a drag on your both and you will try to compensate for each other which might be more of a challenge than anything else. Instead, Find someone whose personality traits complement yours and you’d find the fit to be much easier.

Their Experience

My third piece of advice is to find someone who has experienced the failures and success on the same path you’d like to take. Someone who has “been there and done that” and has nothing to prove to anyone.  A person who is currently trying to figure out the things you want to learn can’t provide you with the insight or support that you need, because they are trying to figure it out for themselves.  When you work with someone who is at this stage of their journey, the relationship can go from supportive to competitive if you start to gain momentum and they’re still “stuck”. Someone who hasn’t had the experience and learnt the lessons isn’t yet ready to be a mentor. Someone who has passed this stage may also have more time to work with you as their preoccupation may not be with business operations that can be very time consuming.

Don’t Rush It

Hack number four is to take it slow. Working with a mentor is like establishing any other relationship. If you want to increase the chances of success, don’t rush it. Try to get to know who you’re thinking of approaching. Learn about their values, their work ethic,  their style of doing business and especially observe the relationships they share with their social circle. These are a good indication of what your experience may be like, should you work with them. If you are thinking about engaging someone totally new, connect with them on social media, engage them in their comments and check out their content. This is a simple way to get to know them and for them to get familiar with you, so should you approach them you would already have some level of relationship.

Be a Good Mentee

My final and perhaps the most important hack is to be a good mentee.  If you want someone to peel back the covers and show you the secret sauce to success, especially if they are an unpaid mentor, you better be the best mentee ever! Respect their time, don’t be late to sessions, do the work agreed upon and always show gratitude for their support. Also, don’t think that because you’re a mentee, you have no value to add to the table. Your mentor isn’t omnipotent, so if there is something that you’ve mastered and they have struggled with it, offer to help them. This will strengthen your relationship and pay dividends in support and access to new opportunities.

A mentor in business is one of the best resources you can possibly have in your growth tool kit. It’s especially beneficial if you are establishing your personal brand. Having an endorsement and support from a trusted industry voice is priceless. The right mentor is also critical in helping to expand your perspective, improve your mindset, your opportunities and your business. If you haven’t sought out a mentor to help you expand yourself or your business now is the ideal time to start. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Jamila Bannister

Jamila Bannister

Jamila Bannister is Personal Branding Strategist, author and content creator from Trinidad & Tobago. She works with entrepreneurs who want to market their businesses by leading from the front with thought leadership and personal branding. She focuses on helping people create strong personal brands through brand strategy, content creation and public relations