The importance of having a mentor early on in life cannot be overemphasized. Having the right mentor can be a life changing experience. From shaping the way you work, helping you set realistic professional goals, to guiding you on the challenges of achieving your next big milestone – mentors literally shorten your path to success.
It usually takes a decade or more to be the success you want to become. But you can shorten your learning curve and even drastically curtail it by finding a mentor. There’s immense value in learning from other people who’ve been there before you, and understand the ins and outs of the game while everybody else tries to learn by trial and error.
A study by Elliot Leadership Institute at Johnson & Wales University surveyed senior executives and middle managers in the food service and hospitality industry. Those who had been mentored said their mentors helped them build all kinds of leadership skills such as decision-making, strategic thinking, coaching, managing others etc.
The truth is, almost none of us know what skills we would require to make the next big leap in our careers or businesses, unless we are scurrying to find out how to acquire those skills. What’s more, another detailed study from the University of Georgia confirms that those who are mentored report that they enjoy their jobs more and aren’t as stressed out as those who aren’t. And this make sense.
Because a mentor does more than just tell you trade secrets, he gives you guidance, feedback and support. And in the process, becomes someone you can talk to and trust.
No one can do it on their own
People who become successful don’t get there on their own. There are mentors behind every successful person at the various stages of their careers who push them to become better. Mentors help you strive to innovate and create.
Most of them will remind you of how far you’ve come and how far you still have to go. The most successful people we know today all had mentors – Richard Branson had his mother and later in his career Sir Freddie Laker, Berkshire Hathaway was possible because Warren Buffett found a mentor in Benjamin Graham, Tony Robbins had Jim Rohn, and Oprah Winfrey was inspired by Maya Angelou.
Practical education like no other
After school is over, you don’t get to have the same school-teacher learning system to advance you. A good mentor picks you up where school left off, and builds you from there. The accountability, measurable outcomes, and challenging assignments you get to learn from a mentor who is dedicated to seeing you succeed are priceless. They can literally up your game and help you take the next big step in life.
Successful people understand that there’s always something new to learn, something more challenging to take up and comfort zone that needs expansion. A big part of having a good mentor is being a good student. The minute you think you have learnt it all, or that you’ve become peers with your mentor, you will stop learning from her.
Gain a wide network
You can’t underestimate the importance of knowing the right people in business. You might have a natural knack for networking, but if you’ve been at it for a few years, you are limited by that time frame.
A seasoned mentor will have connections and a great reputation built after years of hard work. Most importantly, a good mentor will have strong connections with people well-established in the industry you are starting out in. They can help you make the most of their hard-won networks. If you are currently only networking with peers of your generation in your industry, you will most likely miss out on opportunities to learn from people who are taking the big decisions that impacts your industry.
Wise insights that will go a long way
Often a single piece of advice could go a long way in changing an entrepreneur’s frame of reference forever. That same advice could become the catalyst in changing the course of a person’s life forever.
One ‘aha!’ moment could help you move faster than a year’s work. It could also keep you from a costly mistake. But most of the times, a person’s pride (or sheer arrogance) can keep him from learning from a mentor. We are wired to leave our own marks, so sometimes it can get difficult to be humble enough to acquire a fresh perspective and hear things we don’t want to hear.
Having a mentor early on in life can teach you invaluable lessons in the business or career you want to progress in. For some people, a formal process of seeking out mentors is the best way to go. For others, the relationship grows organically. Joy Archer says, “One significant thing about mentor relationships is that the best ones seem to grow organically, rather than being an ‘arranged marriage.’”