Q. What is the most important quality young entrepreneurs should look for in a mentor and why?
The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
A good mentor should have a large amount of real-world experience in the same field or area the entrepreneur is seeking to learn. A lot of people claim to be entrepreneurs and are more than willing to be mentors, but they have never really experienced the lifecycle of starting a business. Make sure you do your research before taking on a mentor.
- Phil Chen, Givit
One of the best coaches or mentors I have ever had is Scott Case, founder of Priceline.com and former CEO of Startup America. I typically leave conversations with Scott feeling like someone just kicked my teeth in, which can be very hard for an egotistical startup founder such as myself, but he’s always dead on and doesn’t pull any punches with me. His advice is always direct, actionable and dead on.
- Danny Boice, Speek
Make sure that your mentor is genuine — meaning they are credible in their career, as a person and truly want to help you succeed. Often times, someone may appear to be a great mentor on the surface, but they have alternative motives. For the mentoring relationship to be successful, there needs to be a layer of trust on both sides, and this does not exist if the mentor is not genuine.
- Kevin Tighe II, WeBRAND
The best mentor is willing to discuss their biggest failures. That’s where you learn best. If a potential mentor is only willing to talk about their accolades, you won’t learn anything. You could just Google his or her successes. The most valuable teaching tools are our mistakes and the courses we took to fix them.
- Rakia Reynolds, Skai Blue Media
The best mentors that I’ve had were people who made introductions for me to other people. For example, one mentor invited me to a private dinner with CEOs of Fortune 100 companies. By introducing me to their network, my mentors are demonstrating that they believe in me and are willing to put their name on the line to support me.
- Nanxi Liu, Enplug
You want to seek advice from someone who has faced the same trials and tribulations you will be facing, so be sure they have a lot of experience and expertise in your field.
- Emily Doubilet, Susty Party
The ability to listen and respond in a meaningful way is an important quality in a mentor. Some people like to hear themselves talk more than they like to listen, and those people wouldn’t make good mentors. Young entrepreneurs need mentors who will listen to their concerns and have a real conversation, not a monologue.
- Phil Dumontet, DASHED
Finding a mentor with patience is key. Most mentors will be exceptionally smarter, more successful and more knowledgable than you are. You need to find one that is patient enough to let you work through problems, learn and absorb why something did or did not work. A mentor who hands you the answer does you a disservice by not allowing you to learn for yourself with their guidance.
- Kim Kaupe, ZinePak
It is key to find a mentor who will not only support you and your company when everything is going well, but will also stick with you and help you through any tough times. It’s not as easy to find such a mentor, as their name is on the line as much as yours when they support you publicly and introduce you to their network. However, when you do, it is all the more valuable.
- Christopher Pruijsen, Sterio.me
10. Interested in More Than Your Idea
Look for someone who is not just interested in your idea, but you. Find someone who recognizes your potential and can hold the vision for what’s possible for you even when you can’t fully see it for yourself (particularly when you hit big dips on the entrepreneurial rollercoaster). Beyond being an advocate and a cheerleader, a champion is someone who helps you reach even further outside your comfort zone.
- Jenny Blake, Jenny Blake
Many people look for mentors who are way ahead of them professionally, but mentors often forget how they got to their position and times change. I encourage my students to find mentors one step ahead, so the individual has time and relevant experience and understands the realities of the situation.
- Suzanne Smith, Social Impact Architects
12. Similar to Your Core Values
Just because someone has had entrepreneurial success does not mean that you should model your life after them. Look for mentors who share your core values, especially those regarding work and life balance. You want to make sure that your beliefs are aligned so that when they share their experiences, you would feel comfortable doing the same thing.
- Sarah Schupp, UniversityParent
I view experience as price of admission to being a mentor. Beyond that, the most important quality young entrepreneurs should look for in a mentor is personality fit. It doesn’t matter how much insight a person brings to a relationship, if you fundamentally don’t click personality-wise, you’re not going to get as much as you could get out of the relationship.
- Chris Cancialosi, GothamCulture
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