As the popularity of startup culture and Silicon Valley continues to increase, more and more millennials are abandoning their 9-5s in pursuit of their own startups. Yet, despite the growing number of millennial entrepreneurs, there is something that may take more time to grow – a millennial’s experience. For that and many other reasons, it’s important for millennials to be aware of their lack of years in the workforce and adequately supplement it with something that will help them grow as their startup does – a mentor.
Mentorship is invaluable. When I first started working as a young professional, I was fortunate enough to have mentors who told me directly when I was making a mistake or when I could be challenging myself more. My mentors were the reason I took a risk to launch a startup, the reason I pursued an MBA, and why I felt confident that I could lead a startup at a young age.
At the end of the day, I know I have someone to reach out to when my wisdom and experience runs out and I’m at risk of making a decision that may cause my team or startup undue harm. Mentors help guide you to success and here are four ways to move forward in getting a mentor that is a good fit for you and for your career goals:
Find The Right Mentor
Don’t just jump into mentorship blindly. Take your time and find the right mentor. You might not want the mentor that everyone else wants because they might be too busy and they may not have the right advice for the career trajectory you’re taking. The first step of finding a mentor is finding the right mentor – the one you want to emulate, the one you’re inspired by, and the one who mutually finds value in mentorship. The best mentors I’ve had were mentored themselves. In personally understanding the value of great mentorship, they made themselves available, they gave honest feedback and they often initiated meetings rather than just accepting them.
Test It Out
Once you feel that you may have the right mentor, test it out. You’re not committing to your mentor for life, so it’s okay if you want to get to know them before you divulge your most important career aspirations, startup secrets or pain points. Let them know you want to see how it goes, and they’ll appreciate your honesty. To keep a mentorship relationship in a ‘testing phase’ keep the commitment open-ended and only plan on recurring, regular meetings once you know you’ve found a good fit.
With a mentor, it can be easy to focus meetings on talking qualitatively – there is value in sharing workplace stories and in hearing about your mentor’s career. Though this is important, bring a quantitative element to your mentorship interactions as well. Let your mentor know the goals you want to achieve, and ask them how they can keep you accountable. More than likely, they’ll have great advice on reaching your goals, and knowing your career plan, they will have the ability to help open doors, introduce you to game-changing contacts and share specific resources that will help you achieve your career aspirations.
Like most things in life, mentorship is give and take. Though you may not be able to give your mentor the great advice they’re giving you, there are certain things you can give them that will keep them engaged in your professional relationship. As a mentee, the primary thing you can give your mentor is appreciation. Beyond expressing gratitude, extend interest in their careers and in their accomplishments. If they have a lecture, attend. If they write an article, read it. By being an advocate for their work and leadership, they’ll feel appreciated and will know their investment in you is time well-spent.
Though millennial entrepreneurs are often motivated and energetic, mentorship is essential to ensuring the right outcome occurs as the result of that energy. In my case, my mentors became my greatest advocates and many now sit on my startup’s board of directors or as official advisors. When millennial entrepreneurs are surrounded by wise mentors, a melting pot of greatness occurs – the years of experience with the insatiable energy.
Stated best by Simon Sinek, “A leader’s job is not to do the work for others, it’s to help others figure out how to do it themselves, to get things done, and to succeed beyond what they thought possible.” If you’re a millennial, get a mentor and allow them to help you succeed in ways you never thought possible.