We’d all like to find that magic bullet that can transform our business from just getting by to outright thriving. One of the best ways to do that is finding and learning from an industry mentor, someone a little further down on a similar path as your own.

There’s an undeniable link between those who utilize mentors and success. 71% of Fortune 500 companies have long-standing mentoring programs, and 97% of those with a mentor say they find them to be valuable. With only 37% of current professionals having a mentor, however, there’s a disconnect between the value and usage in the modern world.

By looking at the benefits of mentorships and the process of actually finding one, you can equip yourself with the experience of someone proven in your field. For those just beginning in business, it can be just the right push we all need sometimes to find lasting success.

A Proactive Practice

In business, it’s vital to deal with the problems at hand and learn from the successes and failures of the past. Looking ahead and being proactive is what sets the pros apart from the amateurs.

“It’s hard to get ahead if your business is merely just reactive to the world,” explained Gio Paris, founder and director of Vivid Capital. “And at a certain point, you need to take a more long-term approach. If you haven’t been in business long though, then you lack these firsthand experiences, and that’s exactly the weakness that mentorships help mitigate. Having an industry leader share strategies and knowledge can set your business on the fast track for success, and they can serve as an educational bedrock you just won’t find from elsewhere.”

While it’s important to always be aware of what’s going on in the day-to-day of your business, a more overarching perspective is needed sometimes. Those who have been in the industry for several decades more than yourself have this automatically, and with just a glance can share their thoughts on your current model. A mentor is both a reference point and soundboard, which helps find-tune the inner workings of any company.

Avoiding pitfalls and capitalizing on opportunities ahead is the name of the game, and mentors provide a perspective that can do just this for those willing to listen.

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A Two-Way Street

At its core a mentorship program means growth, but the relationship is not as one-sided as you might think. Connections are everything in the business world, and practicing our communication skills with an active audience helps both sharpen their skillset.

“Mentorship done well results in growth for both the mentee and the mentor,” noted workplace leader Heather Graham. “The mentee has a chance to develop, excel, and advance more effectively and the mentor practices essential leadership skills like problem-solving, feedback, coaching, vulnerability, and communication.”

The connections formed by mentorship can extend far after the program itself concludes, and having an ally in your industry is always valuable. Mentorship not only boosts the skills and knowledge of both sides involved but also strengthens their networks as well.

Everyone stands to gain something with mentorships, and the final step is simply finding the right individual who fits your unique needs.

Finding The Right Fit

Finding the right mentor is a skill in itself, before setting out take some time to seriously consider what you are looking to improve about your business and self. Once you identify a potential mentor who meets these needs, it’s important to craft a thoughtful means of outreach to increase your chances of forming a real connection.

“The best way to reach out is usually sending a short email,” suggested Janet T. Phan.

“Share one or two things you admire about their work, then tell them a little about yourself, why you’re reaching out, what you would like to learn from them, and wrap it up with your ask. A first meeting over coffee, or a short video call, is low commitment for your target mentor and will give you an opportunity to better understand them, gauge your chemistry, and see if they’d be the right fit for you.”

Keeping your initial ask short and sweet will help bump your chances of success with a busy mentor, and shows that you value their time right out of the gate. As important as it is to find the right fit, it’s equally valuable to take your time and customize an approach to your efforts so that they lead to something tangible.

The power of mentorship is that it immediately gives actionable aid to business leaders in the present and also prepares them for the future. Businesses of all kinds stand to benefit from these connections, and they serve as an important bolster to any leader looking to improve both their company and personal skills.

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