Mentoring is a word often bandied around, but what does it actually mean? Simply put, being a mentor means developing a relationship where someone with great experience, and/or knowledge of an industry – or sometimes just in life, or general business – offers guidance to a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.
Mentors don’t all look like Gandalf, Yoda or Morgan Freeman. The rule is that they will be sharing their expertise and knowledge that the other person doesn’t possess. Age doesn’t matter when it comes to being a mentor, all that matters is that he or she has a certain area of expertise and knowledge that they can share.
While variety is the spice of life, you might feel that working in a shared workspace means that no one understands your business, your stresses and strains, or what you’re trying to achieve. We’ve often found that coworking spaces bring the opposite, and could be the perfect place to find your next mentor, or become one yourself!
So, you’ve decided you want to seek the advice of someone with more experience and knowledge than you. Someone who, unlike your family and friends, won’t be negative or judgemental but objective? But how do you go about finding one? There are, of course, apps out there – like Find Me a Mentor, GoMentor and PushFar as well as whole bunch of useful websites – mentorsme.co.uk, Horsesmouth.co.uk, ixionvolunteers.co.uk or First Steps Ltd to help you on your path to enlightenment.
So, step one in your search for a mentor should be reaching out to your existing network. Former employers, old lecturers, people you already have a liking for an inkling of what they might be able to offer. Reach deep into your contacts book – and even think about people you might know who are approaching retirement, or retired. Anyone who will have the wisdom you are seeking and can help you on your professional journey.
Your social media network is, of course, the perfect place to search for a mentor, as are industry associations. It’s a good idea to seek someone out, follow them, and decide if you feel they might be able to offer up the sort of advice, knowledge and skills you’re looking for. Sometimes it’s good to find someone in an alternative industry to yours, to encourage thinking out of the box – perfect when working in a shared workspace!
The key to finding the right fit is to decide in advance what you want to achieve by engaging a mentor. Someone to hang out with and drink coffee isn’t really what this is about. Finding someone who can help you get better and work faster and smarter is more the territory you want to be in.
A good mentor might be complimented that you’ve asked for their help however, it’s worth laying ground rules for how much of their time you’ll take; start off by clearly stating that you’re seeking help and advice, and maybe some initial time together to work out if this mentor/mentee relationship will work.
Go into the initial meeting prepared with questions and a solid understanding of what you want from their mentorship, and remember, you’re looking for someone with certain qualities that can help you grow professionally. These might include a clear willingness to share skills, knowledge, and expertise, along with a positive attitude.
You need to find someone who gets where you’re at, and where you want to be, and can become a positive role model for you. These people do exist – and you can find your very own. We suggest taking a look in your coworking space – with a range of members from all walks of life and varying experience, it could be the perfect space to find one!
You might be tired of watching lifehack videos, and want to be the person who presents them, right? If you like sharing knowledge and information, and fancy sparing a few hours a week to encourage others (and to stop them from falling down where you might have), then you might be ready to wear a mentor’s hat.
Mentors, of course, can come from all walks of life, and, as we mentioned above, simply have to have the right sort of knowledge and experience other people are looking for. All those years you spent studying java, MailChimp or Cascading Style Sheets? Get mentoring. An expert in digital marketing or sales? Share your wealth of knowledge.
But, a little like searching for a mentor, you don’t want to tie in with someone who will take up too much of your time, make too many demands or won’t benefit from your help. It’s a careful jigsaw on both sides. Of course, there are mutual benefits to any relationship, and in being a mentor you might find you push your own boundaries, and look at things from a different perspective.
Some mentoring roles can be chargeable of course, and there are websites and courses (as well as life coaching) you can take to qualify as a registered, recognised mentor in your field. You can proactively look for someone to mentor, and it could also improve your career prospects.
Mentoring is a wonderful, social and educational aspect of modern business. Shared workspaces like Areaworks encourage networking, relationship building and growth – and they might just be the perfect place to find your new mentor or mentee.