The pandemic accelerated the rate at which remote work has become the norm and has disrupted traditional methods of finding a mentor. Networking events have all but disappeared and real-life introductions, meetups, and in-person accelerator programs are now a challenge to run.
Yet, the remote situation doesn’t mean team members can’t keep learning, make new connections, and master skills that will benefit your business.
An excellent solution for this problem is virtual mentoring. You can find mentors online who will advise you on a bunch of topics. From product to selling to user experience and customer retention, there’s a mentor out there with the expertise to help you.
When it comes to growing your startup, being remote doesn’t hinder your access to expert mentorship.
Virtual mentoring is the simple concept of meeting with a mentor online rather than in person. You schedule online meetings to discuss the challenges facing your business and how you can overcome them. Virtual sessions are often shorter than face-to-face ones, and a discussion schedule is often prepared and shared beforehand.
- It saves time; the time it takes to jump on a call is much less than traveling to a location to meet someone in person.
- You have access to a broader pool of mentors. You are no longer restricted by geography and can speak with experts from anywhere in the world.
- You can choose a mentor who has expertise in a specific subject area you need help with. Generic business mentors are a thing of the past.
- You can have multiple mentors to advise you on different aspects of your business.
- There’s less pressure on a video call than meeting someone in real life; you may feel more confident to ask questions you may not usually feel confident to ask.
- More employees can participate in mentoring sessions as you can have more than one person on a mentoring call
- Upskilling can be done from wherever the employee is in the world; virtual mentoring can help you build a global, highly-skilled workforce.
- It can help them overcome challenges they may be facing in their work and help support their growth and personal development.
- Virtual mentoring can help employees become more engaged as they feel like their employer invests more in their professional development.
- The cost of virtual mentoring is lower than in-person events or workshops.
There are, of course, some challenges associated with virtual mentoring. Although you save time with mentoring online, here are some of the things you should be aware of:
- When you have a virtual mentor, it’s not often someone you’ve met in real life. If you don’t have a pre-existing relationship, it can be difficult for you to foster the connection you may have if you’d met in person.
- You need to find the right mentor, someone invested in your business who wants to see you thrive.
- Communication is vital, and both mentee and mentor need to make an effort to stay in touch and schedule calls.
- As you may plan your agenda with your mentor ahead of time, it can make your sessions a little more rigid than they would be in real life. Natural conversations which spark ideas may be a little harder to foster.
- Zoom fatigue. It’s a thing. Spending all day on video calls can be exhausting and can make it more challenging to stay fully engaged than meeting with your mentor in real life.
- Communication – you need to communicate with your mentee effectively, tell them upfront how you can help them, and how you want to have sessions with them.
- Set expectations – how much time can you realistically give to your mentee? How often can they get in touch with you? How should they contact you? When should you touch base? What do you expect them to do to follow up on your sessions. Be clear from the offset, and you’ll have a harmonious relationship.
- Stay in touch – having one call, making some promises, and then flaking isn’t helpful for your mentee. Once you’ve established how often you’ll be in contact, make sure you stay true to your word.
- Follow up – same as above, if you’ve said you’ll follow up, then do it. If you’ve decided you want to be a mentor, then take the position seriously.
- Be empathetic – try to see things from your mentee’s point of view; if they’re a startup founder, they are probably trying to manage a million things at once.
- Be honest – if you don’t know how to help with something, be honest about it. Your mentee will respect you more if you can admit to your limitations.
- Ask for help- it’s ok to ask for help; that’s the whole point of the mentorship, don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions.
- Be prepared – don’t turn up to a meeting without a clear idea of what you want from it. Have questions prepared and an outline of what you want from your session. It will make the session smoother and more effective for both of you.
- Be clear about your goals – tell your mentor from the start what you want from the relationship. Do you just need help on one project, or do you want business advice long term? If you’re upfront about your intentions, your mentor will be able to provide more meaningful support.
- Do what you say you will – if you tell your mentor you will execute something or delve into some data to get more insight, then do it. There’s no point turning up to meetings empty-handed. It just wastes everybody’s time.
- Be respectful – respect that your mentor is a busy professional. Respect their time accordingly. Don’t email them every day with every single question and expect a response. Save up all your queries to ask at once in your next session.
- Be empathetic – it goes hand in hand with being respectful, but remember your mentor is human too and will have some limitations.
If you’re looking to find a mentor, whether you’re a founder or employee of a company, you may feel a little lost with knowing where to look. There are a few options that are worth exploring to find a mentor that’s a fit for you:
Within your company
You might not have to look far to find a virtual mentor. Company leadership can mentor junior staff, and reverse mentorship can also work wonders. There’s a trend for company leaders to recruit newer team members to teach them skills they want to master. Social media, for example, is a crucial skill company leaders may want some coaching in.
If you decide to go down the internal mentoring route, plenty of platforms can help you set it up logistically. Take a look at some of the software that can help with internal mentoring here.
Mentoring within a company can be great to help team members develop professionally. It tends to work best within large organizations that have multiple teams and functions.
The trouble with internal mentoring is that you don’t get insight on projects from someone not involved with the company. Often, it’s people looking in from the outside who can offer the most valuable advice about where you can improve.
Internal mentoring can also be time-consuming and challenging to manage if you’re a small start-up and not possible at all if you’re a solopreneur or freelancer!
Leveraging peer-to-peer mentorship platforms
If you want instant access to virtual mentors outside your company, there’s GrowthMentor. The platform has over 300 vetted mentors who are experts in multiple disciples related to growth and marketing.
You can find a mentor to advise you on your marketing struggles; from Facebook marketing to SEO, product-market fit, product analysis, and more, there’s someone with the experience you need.
All the mentors have amassed loads of experience either through founding their own startup or working for high-growth startups. They advise from a selfless place and want to help you succeed.
We put together this list of mentoring platforms and software to help you find the right virtual mentoring platform for your needs.
Find Your Virtual Mentor
Virtual mentoring is an excellent way for you to get advice from experts employed at top companies anywhere in the world. You can seek out people with niche experience relevant to your business. It also saves the masses of time and energy it takes trying to connect with potential mentors in your physical location.
Find the mentor to help you take your business further here.