These statistics are pretty powerful.
- 80% of learning takes place between mentors and mentees
- 75% of private sector executives describe mentoring as “critical” to their own career development.
- 71% of Fortune 500 companies offer some form of a mentorship program.
Mentorship is important.
But there’s a question that way too many people overlook when it comes to looking for a mentor:
“What type of mentor should you be looking for?”
The Three Types of Mentors
In his article from the Harvard Business Review, Anthony K. Tzan identified and defined three main categories of mentors. We think he was on to something, and in this article, we’re going to take a look at the purpose each type of mentor serves, and how you can go about finding them.
Let’s jump right into it:
1. Peer Mentors
The first type of mentor that Khan identifies are peer mentors.
The role of a peer mentor is essentially to show you the ropes. A peer mentor is your first guide in a new position or a new place – they’ll show you where you can find things, who to talk to when you need to get something done, which staff kitchen stocks the good coffee and who to avoid bumping into at the water cooler.
A good example of a peer mentor would be when new employees at a company are given someone slightly more senior to shadow so they can learn the ins and outs of the company and its processes.
Anthony Tjan - CEO, Managing Partner and Founder of the venture capital firm Cue Ball
Mentorship, delivered in an authentic manner, shows that you care about employees’ professional progression. This basic “I care about you” culture is the foundation for effective mentorship.
This type of mentorship is crucial when you’re bringing on new people.
If you’re the new employee, it’s essential in making you feel welcome and to help you get your bearings in even the friendliest of new environments.
This may all sound a little cushy, and it is, but there’s method to the madness.
The sooner you feel comfortable with the new environment, the sooner it is that you can get to work being all that you can be.
Experienced employees have already learned how to get things done quickly and efficiently, so leveraging their workplace-specific knowledge allows newcomers to stand on the shoulders of giants and get up to speed quickly.
This mentorship practice almost always happens within established companies – rather than at startups which usually have more horizontal structures, and most of the people working there are kind of on the same boat…with spoons for paddles and pizza for fuel.
Have no fear though, even if you don’t work at a Fortune 100 company with a mentorship program in place you can still MacGyver yourself a peer mentor.
How to find a peer mentor if you aren’t assigned one by your employer:
1. Stare across the room
If you work in an office, there’s gotta be someone cool around, ask them for advice, they’ll probably be thrilled you’re talking to them.
2. Build a virtual peer group
- Leverage your network on LinkedIn – straight up ask people in your field if they’d like to get on a quick Skype call with you to chat about work.
- Join Facebook groups relevant to your job and network there. People are usually less guarded on Facebook groups than they are on LinkedIn, plus it’s a great way to get your social (media) game sharp.
- Join GrowthMentor Community or any other similar platform and pay to talk to someone in your field – but only if you really need to.
Peer mentors are best found in the wild, you’re not going to be leveraging anyone’s profound knowledge and experience here. It’s just a way to get a feel for your new role.
2. Career Mentors
Career mentors are what most people typically tend to think of when they have the image of a mentor in mind.
Usually, they’re someone within your organization who’s pretty senior to you, but not necessarily someone that you report to directly.
They’ll be an advocate and someone who’s got your back.
They’ll talk you up to their peer group and help you build your professional network by introducing you to the right people.
A career mentor is someone who:
- Will also play the role of your trusted advisor.
- Is someone who knows how things work in the long run
- Can guide you through career choices and company politics
- Points out valuable opportunities on the horizon
- Keeps you focused on the part you play in your organization’s growth.
An important distinction is between career mentors and peer mentors is that they’re not here to help you get anything trivial done.
Career mentors take your abilities and your skillset as a given and will be guiding you through bigger picture decisions, rather than short-term milestones.
That’s why the frequency of interactions with your career mentors will probably be more fragmented, like a chat over coffee every couple of months and a phone call here and there.
The value of a career mentor is really that they make sure that your professional growth is top of mind when you’re working at a company.
They motivate you to make the right moves and keep you ambitious all the while making sure you avoid the pitfalls that they’ve discovered as a result of their deep-rooted experience.
This is valuable not only to the mentee but also to the organization as a whole.
Benefits of Career Mentorship:
- It makes sure that people with passion and ambition are well guided and filtered up.
- It ensures that employees know and feel that there’s someone looking out for them.
- It’s also a great institution for combatting employee attrition.
John C. Maxwell - Author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.
What about career mentorship in the startup scene?
When it comes to the startup community and being an entrepreneur, there’s a clear lack of career mentorship. This is probably due to the fact that many entrepreneurs are gunning it alone, at least in the early stages of their business’s lifecycle.
Another reason that it’s difficult to find career mentorship in a startup is that they probably haven’t been around that long. The company culture is still in flux, and the politics aren’t very mature or deep rooted.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place in the startup space for this category of mentorship.
Benefits of Career Mentorship in Startups:
- Guidance and future-focused perspective of career mentorship improves morale and keeps people passionate about the project they’re working on.
- It can also help founders keep a finger on the pulse of their business by clueing them in on the sentiment of their staff and employees.
- Can act as a guiding light to know where they may need to be investing more time and effort within their organizations.
How to build career mentorship into your startup:
1. Make sure you’ve got an open door policy
Relationships are born when people communicate openly with one another. This may not be a formal Career Mentorship practice, but it gives people in your organization an opportunity develop this type of a relationship naturally.
2. Introduce a buddy system
It’s important to have someone to talk to that’s separate from peer performance monitoring/peer reviews etc. This way, people in different parts of your organization can guide each other on career choices in a non-competitive environment.
3. If you’re a founder/entrepreneur
Platforms like GrowthMentor can certainly be of value here.
3. Life Mentors
Life mentors are in the overlap of the Venn diagram between career, community & relationships, and personal goals.
Although you may meet your life mentor through work, most of the time they will be somebody you know or meet with whom you’ve built a strong and trusted relationship based on respect and possibly admiration.
But what does a life mentor “look like”?
The personality of a life-mentor
- Someone you may aspire to be like in life
- A person who’s made achievements that you find valuable
- Someone who’s perspectives and ideas resonate with you and inspire and motivate you
- A person who understands where you’re coming from
Even though they may be people that you look to for advice on your career. A life mentor will likely be more focused on the sum of the parts that make up your life.
Think of the wise old man that guides the confused teen hero towards finding their passion, reconciling their differences with their family, getting that trophy, and of course working up the courage to ask that guy/girl out (yes, we’re thinking of Mr. Miyagi, and you should be also.)
Photo Credit: Sony Pictures – from “The Karate Kid” (1984)
They’ll probably focus on helping you find the balance between your professional and your personal ambitions. They’ll more likely than not, stress the importance of your relationships with family, friends, and partners.
It’s more difficult to find a life mentor than any other type of mentor. The reality is that there’s only one way, you need to meet them somehow and build a strong relationship with them.
Best ways to find a life mentor
This is the 21st century – your reach, and therefore potential candidates for this type of mentorship are greatly increased by the availability of social media and networking services.
Leverage your personal networks and your digital networks as much as possible.
Put yourself out there, contact interesting people and start a conversation (it can be as easy as asking them about how they think you should face a particular challenge.)
Finally, when it comes to life mentorship, there’s no shortage of professional life-coaches both online and in every major city around the world that are ready to take on this role.
That may be something you want to look into, but the important thing is to make sure that they can live up to their promises. There’s also no shortage of people who make huge claims that they can’t back up in practice, so be careful who you get advice from!
The common denominator across any form of mentorship is the idea that mentors are there to help you progress and grow. To help you get over the hurdles that may be slowing your business down or maybe stopping you from moving up to the next level. Their function is to help you take stock of where you are right now, and help you understand how you can leverage the abilities you have and your current position to move forward in an impactful way.
Every type of mentorship has its place in the modern business world and the most effective mentors are the ones that embody a growth mindset.
True mentors understand that there is a fluidity to every situation that can be channeled by using the right strategy and the right timing to get the best results.
It takes experience and situational awareness to arrive at those decisions, and for those of us who haven’t built up that experience and intuition, we can definitely benefit from the wisdom of others.
We built GrowthMentor because we know that there’s a wealth of knowledge and experience out there that’s been waiting to get tapped into. We’ve structured it in a way that lets you get very specific when you’re looking for guidance for your business.
It’s the platform we wish we had when we didn’t have mentors of our own to help us with important decisions.
Our hope is that we can provide you with a direct line to getting the kinds of insights you need when you need them, rather than having to wait for life and chance to give you access to them.