Without the tutelage of a high school journalism teacher by the name of Fred Birney, would Walter Cronkite have cemented his desire to be a reporter for the rest of his life? Could Oprah Winfrey have reached the heights of media success without the guiding light of Maya Angelou? Most certainly not!
Similarly, in the art world, Vincent Van Gogh never could have created The Starry Night had Paul Gauguin not encouraged him to paint from memory and imagination rather than literal observation.
Cronkite, Oprah, and Van Gogh all had mentors. Mentors can help us soar professionally. Pointing us toward the right connections, mentors coach us on the real-world aspects of business and show us how to climb the ladder of success.
Like world-class storytellers and artistic geniuses, MBA candidates need mentors too. Here are ten things to consider while searching for your mentor.
1. What Are Your Professional Desires?
Before you decide on a mentor, it helps to know what kind of guidance you’re looking for and how a particular person could help you.
Do you seek someone who can provide general advice to help you complete your MBA degree? Would you prefer an individual who knows the ins and outs of a specific company you want to work for? Before coming to any conclusions, you will likely first need a reference point.
The clearer your goals, according to the American Bar Association, the more effectively your mentor will be able to assist you — either by relating to you on a level of shared experience or by connecting you with associates whose background better suits the experience you seek.
When you know what you want, you are more likely to feel satisfied with the results.
2. How Do You Communicate?
Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Will someone completely different from you spark your creativity? Or are you more comfortable with a like-minded individual?
Communication is the foundation of the mentor-mentee relationship. When speaking to a prospective mentor, find out about his/her communication process so that you can, in turn, form your strategy for success.
3. Which Areas Of Expertise Do You Wish To Enhance?
Venture outside of your comfort zone. We all have qualities and proficiencies we need to work on if we want to succeed.
If you know that you’re more passive, seeking out a mentor who is great at networking can help you gain confidence and assertiveness. In comparison, more forceful personalities might consider seeking guidance from an adviser who values thoughtfulness and is slower to take action.
4. Gauge Your Mentor’s Strengths and Weaknesses
You never want to change yourself completely to accommodate the style of another. Internalize the parts of the mentor that complement you as an individual, and downplay the ones that don't mesh with your personality and/or work ethic. Focus on:
- Getting acquainted
- Discussing your overall goals
- Creating a mentoring agreement, including a schedule
- Outlining the parameters of sharing information
5. Know The Type Of Values You Respect
You and your mentor should share some basic principles and standards, which can help create a personal connection between you. Is the person you are considering candid enough to share information that you couldn’t find on the Internet? Does he/she reciprocate your respect?
To find out if someone would be a good mentor, request input on a single topic. Strike up a conversation about something you recently learned in your online MBA class. Listen more, talk less and pay attention to the details that your potential mentor offers. You’ll be able to tell whether you want to pursue a longer-term professional relationship with this person.
6. Is This Person Happy In His/Her Career?
Choosing the correct mentor can directly affect your state of mind. A common mistake when looking for a potential mentor is selecting one solely based on their apparent success within their career. However, success and happiness don’t always coincide. Someone who is pleasant at work but is still climbing the ladder of success can provide just as much guidance as the person who consistently grosses the highest income via the corner office but is not necessarily happy in their career. Take note of potential mentor’s body language, mood, and overall demeanor and use this to help you decide if they are the mentor you have been seeking.
7. The Perfect Mentor May Already Be In Your Life
He or she may appear in the form of manager, an athletic coach, former or current professor, neighbor, an alumnus of your undergrad institution, spiritual leader, or even as a part of your immediate family. Avoid asking current instructors and/or direct supervisors, though. You and your mentor may have to deal with some sensitive topics, which could strain your existing relationship.
8. Choose As Many Mentors As You See Fit
Having a sequence of mentors can provide you with a cornucopia of useful information for all facets and stages of your life. According to Beverly Kaye, a best-selling author and authority on workplace performance, multiple short-term mentors can keep you inspired and enthusiastic.
9. Don’t Be Offended If A Potential Mentor Says No
If the mentor you’ve set your sights on says that he/she doesn’t have time to help you develop your career, don’t be discouraged. Instead, express your gratitude and ask for a referral. Final impressions, author and marketing strategist Harry Beckwith notes in his book, "Selling the Invisible," are just as important as the first.
10. Professional Mentorship Finding Services
Online students, depending on their location, may prefer to find a mentor through the Internet. Companies and websites to consider include:
- Envelop: Provides educational resources and mentorship for both performers and listeners – a vital tool for MBA students who need to speak in front of crowds or give presentations.
- : A well-recognized social media tool that lets you tell your story, build your brand, and connect with other professionals.
- : A personalized mentorship program reaching 18 million women per week and featuring a 24/7 digital advice hotline.
- : A cloud-based mentor matching service for entrepreneurs, students, and non-profits.
- Find a Mentor
- : Focuses on continuing education, offering more than 1,500 categories to choose from, including leadership, success, and communications coaching.
- : Specializes in small business and offers a variety of tools, workshops, and templates. Mentors, many of whom started out in corporate settings, are available across 62 different industries.
ABOUT WSU’S ONLINE MBA PROGRAMS
Washington State University is one of the best online MBA programs in the nation. The program offers four MBA concentrations– marketing, finance, hospitality business management, and international business – and a general MBA track. For more information, visit WSU’s online MBA website.
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American Bar Association: http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/mental_physical_disability/Mentoring_Relationship_Guide.authcheckdam.pdf
US News: http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2010/01/13/13-tips-on-finding-a-mentorINC: http://www.inc.com/john-boitnott/9-top-platforms-for-finding-a-mentor-in-2016.html
The M Dash: https://mmlafleur.com/mdash/9-famous-mentor-mentee-duos
Find A Mentor: https://findamentor.com