When I was in high school my art teacher Mrs Mears was my mentor. I am not sure if she actually knew she was my mentor but I looked up to her and admired her.
She wasn’t the sunniest or the most outgoing of my teachers but she was fair and gave constructive feedback when required. I think that is what made her so admirable. She wasn’t a pushover. You had to work hard for her praise and attention and that is what pushed me forward.
Her mentoring didn’t end in high school. Even when I was studying design I would think of her and what she might say about particular projects. Even then her ‘voice’ would make me strive higher.
When I graduated from Art College I invited Mrs Mears to my end of year exhibition and she came. Having her there to see how far I had come made me feel proud and made the journey so worth it.
At some stage we all need a mentor whether it’s for personal or business growth.
Why, you ask? Well, there are many reasons but let me give you my big 4.
1. Someone has to keep you accountable.
We can fool ourselves any time we choose. Go on, admit you’ve done it. “No one saw me sneak a cupcake so it doesn’t matter”, or maybe “I should be at the gym but I didn’t sleep well so I should stay in bed…” If it sounds OK, we accept the reasoning. THAT’s why we struggle to make changes or break habits.
A mentor will hold you accountable for your choices. She will ask you the tough questions and teach you to look through your own excuses to see them for what they really are. She will help you to see when you’re fooling yourself and when you’re not – and she won’t let you get away with it.
Don’t wimp out about your choice. Choose a mentor who will call you out when she needs to. It’s a surprisingly motivating experience and it’s where your growth will spring from.
2. You will need someone to inspire you.
No matter how excited you are about what you’re doing, some days are just tough. When you start looking longingly at the nearest cocktail bar, you need some real help.
A mentor will inspire you once again. She will motivate you and get you going again. She knows you, remember? She knows what you need to hear and she will tell you the truth. On those dark days when you’ve lost confidence in yourself, she will remind you why you are so good at what you’re doing.
3. You have access to experience and hindsight.
We learn through experience but it doesn’t always have to be our own. (Thank heavens!) Your mentor should be someone who has already blazed a trail ahead of you – someone in the same field. You can learn from her mistakes and her successes. Trailblazers show you the right way to go, giving you a map towards success.
4. Someone to challenge you and offer criticism when needed.
It’s easy to get carried away with an idea. As entrepreneurs, we are gifted with imagination and enthusiasm but sometimes that makes us chase shiny objects instead of focusing on the real (not so shiny) work. Your mentor will keep you on track. She’ll challenge your ideas so you actually think them through properly. She’ll give you feedback on the good and the bad. She will be the one who is totally honest with you and it’s the honesty you need to hear.
How do you choose a mentor?
Look for experience. Your mentor must know your industry (or understand your problem) from the inside out. She must have “been there and done that.” Without experience she can’t give you the quality guidance you need.
A mentor must be a success in your field. She has proven that she knows what she’s doing.
Listen to what others say about her. If they are singing her praises you know you’ve found a good one!
This is one of the most important relationships in your life and, like all relationships, you have to have the right fit. You have to feel trust and respect for the person mentoring you. You need to feel a connection between you.
There’s one last point I’d like to make.
Don’t think that one person can mentor you in all areas of your life. They can’t. You might find you need a mentor for your personal development and one for your professional development. Choose the right person for the right role.
We can all go it alone and reach some level of success but with a mentor, the road is smoother and the success is more reachable.
I hope you find the Mrs Mears you need to keep you excited and energised in whatever you’re doing.