Jobs and the Future of Work

3 reasons why you need a mentor

Rositsa Zaimova
Founding member and Senior Project Manager, Dalberg Data Insights, Belgium
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Finding a mentor is one of the best investments you can make in yourself and your career. Whether you are an entrepreneur or a goal-oriented professional, you need advice from someone who has already been where you are headed. A good mentor can help break psychological barriers when starting a new company, propel your career or simply challenge and inspire you.

1. Break psychological barriers

In her book, Crazy is a Complement, Linda Rottenberg, CEO of Endeavor, shares the results of a survey among Endeavor entrepreneurs. The outcome is eye-opening:

“The most valuable contribution to their success  –  outside of their team  –  came not from those who provided financing, but from those who gave good advice.”

She claims that the biggest barriers to success in today’s entrepreneurial world are not physical, educational or financial, they are psychological. The key to unlocking success, therefore, is believing in yourself and finding others who believe in you. Hence, finding the right mentors is key. Moreover, the skills required in the different stages of a growing organization are quite different and entrepreneurs need to surround themselves with different mentors to be able to overcome the challenges they face. Sticking to one mentor is limiting.

2. Propel your career

And it is not only entrepreneurs who need mentors; anyone with a goal and a vision needs one. Whether you are a recent graduate that has aspirations to become the best product manager in the world or a philanthropist who is struggling to scale social impact, or a CEO of an international organization, you will need guidance coming from the right people.

A newly appointed CEO has to deal with leadership tasks that he or she has never faced before, from resolving crises to deciding on a takeover. To better prepare and speed up their earning process, they engage with gurus in fields outside their own organization. Harvard Business Review surveyed 45 CEOs who have formal mentoring arrangements and found out that “71% said they were certain that company performance had improved as a result. Strong majorities reported that they were making better decisions (69%) and more capably fulfilling stakeholder expectations (76%).”

Recent graduates are characterized by their curiosity and potential. But more often than not, they feel lost in their new jobs due to the gap between the theory they have learnt and the tasks they need to perform. Having the right mentor at that stage of their lives is key to excelling in their careers. A good mentor will help you get closer to finding out what your strengths and talents are, how to focus on your strengths and eventually how to use them to achieve your goals.

3. Challenge and inspire you

We tend to praise the notion of self-made millionaires, people such as Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, et al, but is there really such a thing as a “self-made millionaire?” Is it possible that these people and many others have achieved their success on their own, without the help of others? Undeniably, they are extremely good at what they are doing. And yet, they understand that success is not a one-person show and that mentors can have tremendous impact on their business. As Zuckerberg mentions in an interview, Steve Jobs was his mentor on how to build a focused team. In a blog post on The Importance of Having a Mentor in Business, Richard Branson admits he “wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker.”

Undoubtedly, mentoring relationships can break psychological barriers, challenge and inspire you, and they can help you propel your career or scale your business. Meanwhile, do not be scared to pay it forward and mentor someone who can benefit from your experience, regardless of where you stand in your career. Everyone has something to learn from others and yet, something else to teach others. It’s never too soon to start learning  and sharing – and great leaders never stop.

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Author: Rositsa Zaimova is a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum, a Product Owner at Real Impact Analytics and a Co-founder of Complementors.

Image: Participants of the “Start Up Chile” program work at their headquarters in Santiago, August 10, 2015. Drawn in by equity-free financing and promises of hands-on mentorship, dozens of female entrepreneurs will head to Chile in the coming weeks to participate in what the government says is the world’s first state-run start-up program aimed exclusively at women. It’s not the first attempt by Chile to catalyze its start-up scene. Since 2010, the government has awarded over $40 million in seed capital to thousands of up-and-coming innovators, according to its own statistics. Picture taken August 10, 2015. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

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