What do Steve Jobs, Larry Page and Sergey Brin have in common? Aside from being 21st-century tech titans, all three had excellent business mentors. And they’re not alone: There is a long tradition of mentoring that spans history and even dates back to mythology. In fact, the term originated with an important character from Homer’s Odyssey. In this text that takes place during the Trojan War, Odysseus relies on Mentor to serve as both an overseer of his household and a teacher to his son, Telemachus.
Historical examples of relationships between mentors and mentees include Socrates and Plato, Hayden and Beethoven, and Freud and Jung. Today, the term “mentor” has evolved to mean a trusted advisor, friend, teacher and wise person, according to a book on mentoring by author and businessman Gordon Shea. Mentoring is a fundamental form of human development where a person invests time, energy and personal know-how in assisting the growth and ability of another person, Shea wrote.
So how does mentoring work in the business world? Sir Richard Branson, billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, discussed his take on how important the relationship between mentor and mentee can be for success: “I have always been a huge believer in the inestimable value good mentoring can contribute to any nascent business. Ask any successful businessperson and, if they are honest about it, they will almost certainly admit to having benefited from the advice of a mentor at some point along the way.” Branson credits his own mentor, Sir Freddie Laker, with helping to shape his entire approach to business.
How It Works
Modern mentorship has flexibility that was not possible in the past. Previously, communication had to be carried out in person or over the phone. Now, mentees can get in touch with their mentors through both face-to-face meetings and online interaction. In addition, mentors can come from many places: Family, friends and business contacts can all play a role. And mentoring can be either casual or structured, depending on what works best for both parties. The most important aspect of the relationship is regular professional contact — no matter how it is carried out.
There are two main factors to consider when forming a mentoring relationship. First, decide on the degree of involvement. The arrangement should meet the needs of both the mentor and mentee, whether they choose to work closely with each other or to carry out conversations by email as needed. Second, determine the level of structure. If the mentoring is formal, there could be regular meetings with specific agendas and goals. In more casual arrangements, mentees might call on the mentor as problems arise or when guidance is needed.
Online mentoring, or e-mentoring, is ideal for those who are looking for an informal connection or who are geographically distant from one another. E-mentoring is an interactive, long-distance relationship between mentor and mentee. In today’s globally connected world, meaningful mentorship is more achievable than ever before.
To get the most out of a mentoring experience, it is important to choose a mentor who has a deep understanding of how business works. Although it may seem that the information learned in manuals and classes is enough, the information gained from these sources is better absorbed and applied through the context a mentor can give. Especially for those new to business, building a one-on-one relationship with an experienced advisor is a smart way to help ensure success. According to Miranda Morley of Demand Media, the following are just some of the real-world benefits of mentorship:
One of the key benefits of the mentor-mentee relationship is advice from a more experienced party. Mentors can provide answers to questions and suggestions that can make a big difference when it comes to navigating the business world.
Because they are experienced, mentors can also provide context and perspectives that were not previously considered. For example, they can be knowledgeable about how consumers and potential investors respond to various strategies because they have encountered similar situations in the past.
In contrast to consultants who may only be concerned with what’s best for a business venture, mentors are invested in helping mentees develop business skills for the long term.
Mentors have valuable connections in the business world. Networking is vital for climbing the corporate ladder, so having a close relationship with a successful mentor can be essential.
Methods and strategies
Business mentorship can also be a source of proven approaches to prevent or address problems when they arise. From recruiting and staffing to cultivating a positive company culture, mentors provide knowledge for all aspects of business.
One of the most significant benefits of business mentorship is the chance to collaborate throughout the course of careers. Fostering a long-lasting relationship with mentors can give new business professionals access to consistent guidance and resources.
Confidence and encouragement
Sometimes all it takes to make important business decisions is confidence. Mentors are perfectly positioned to provide guidance and reinforce the business skills their mentees have, making them more self-assured in all of their business interactions.
Forbes contributor Ken Perlman is a passionate supporter of mentorship because of its effects on leadership in the business world. He stresses that good mentors can help new professionals learn skills that go beyond the classroom, such as management principles and leadership practices. Perlman has seen firsthand the benefits that the mentor-mentee relationship can have for both parties. “The value of a mentor who can help cultivate leadership skills one-on-one in real-time, reduce the anxiety in taking big steps, and focus leaders on achieving their goals — is huge,” he says. As a mentor himself, Perlman knows how important it is to have an experienced contact who can “provide a different perspective, relate different leadership experiences and ask a different set of questions.” And through his work with clients of all types, Perlman has identified a common theme: “When I ask them, to whom or what they attribute their strong leadership skills, their answers are rather consistent. More often than not, they attribute their leadership skill-building to one or more influential individuals — strong mentors — who helped show them how to lead.”
The Mentor and MAP Program at Concordia University, St. Paul
When you enroll in the online MBA program at Concordia University, St. Paul, you have access to meaningful mentorship from an experienced business professional. The Concordia MBA Mentor and Managerial Application Portfolio (MAP) program sets you up for success through your studies and beyond graduation. All MBA students have a designated faculty mentor to support and guide them through graduate school. Your faculty mentor will act as a personal business coach and help you develop networking strategies, polish interpersonal skills and enhance your resume. Business success is within reach with Concordia’s online MBA. Learn more about the Mentor and MAP program today to get started.