Why Mentors Are Crucial For Entrepreneurs

As Suzzanne Uhland has previously asserted: it takes a lot to thrive and succeed as an entrepreneur. Startups, and by extension entrepreneurs, are constantly looking for new ways to achieve their goals, thusly breaking all the rules and making a myriad of mistakes in an effort to drive their businesses forward. Thus, and as previously mentioned in this blog, seizing the help of a mentor stands out as something invaluable.

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Launching a startup and becoming a great, inspiring and successful entrepreneur is a journey full of advantages and disadvantages: as aspiring business and company-developers, entrepreneurs always happen to find themselves in situations where the most common feeling is highly related to disorientation and not knowing what to do; however they do understand the importance of always staying in motion pushing towards their goals making decisions irrespective of the possible outcome.

Without someone pointing them in the right direction—or a mentor, so to speak—, entrepreneurs often end up making terrible mistakes, especially during the early stages after launching their businesses. These circumstances suggest that the smaller the business, the faster they need to keep moving regardless of the challenges that lie ahead.

Talking about challenges, it is undeniable that the journey of becoming an entrepreneur is full of them, and that should be taken for granted. Thus, having good mentors and someone to reach out to for advice becomes no less than essential. A good mentor’s words and advice will help entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts to take action within imperfect circumstances—if there is such a thing as perfect circumstances, though—, because they not only provide a different point of view but also can give extra confidence to keep moving forward without doubts and hesitation. In short: they help entrepreneurs execute rapidly on time delicate and sensitive decisions in an attempt to keep moving towards the main goal.

The journey of succeeding as an entrepreneur is also a journey of gathering a myriad of information—thinking pragmatically of the long-term—. Getting all the data needed to keep moving forward in order to make the best decisions is something that, although can be done without reaching out for help, is something best done by seeking a mentor for help and advice before recklessly making those decisions. Bear in mind that mentors are individuals who have likely already been through the exact same, or similar, situation, therefore, their help is invaluable.

As formerly mentioned by LinkedIn founder, Reid Hoffman, the essence of today’s entrepreneurial journey and the challenges often under its scope can perfectly be described by a simple metaphor: startups, and the decision to become an entrepreneur is like jumping off a cliff and assembling an aircraft on the way down. Thus, entrepreneurs cannot simply assume they have all the tools to assemble the aircraft alone, all by themselves, which is why mentors embody a great source of information and advice.

What makes a good mentor stand out? Well, there are certainly different aspects and characteristics. Here are two of them:

A good mentor possesses high-level expertise

A good mentor is someone who possesses a valuable set of skills and expertise, often in the same skills entrepreneurs lack. This demands a lot of self-awareness from the side of startup enthusiasts, for big names and titles do not always mean an individual will serve a good purpose as a mentor. Industry veterans are not systematically the perfect match, rather, entrepreneurs should set out identify those individuals who underwent really tough situations that demanded actual work and tons of hustle. Do not just pay attention to fancy names, look for the skills that are needed to pursue the dream.

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Mentors often highlight the importance of making a long-term oriented partnership in order to maintain momentum throughout the stages of the process, especially the early stages. There is an undeniable difference in pace between already well-established businesses and smaller companies. This means that smaller businesses need to move faster to ensure they reach a conclusion.

A good mentor is someone who succeeded as an entrepreneur

This is quite obvious, yet often disregarded by today’s entrepreneurs. And although it may sound a bit biased, it is undeniable that there are mentors who have been—or still are—entrepreneurs. Success is something that can be measured in a plethora of different ways, but real mentors have likely walked in the exact same shoes and taken the same steps than today’s entrepreneurs. In order to determine whether a mentor is a good fit, it is quite good to assess whether entrepreneurs see themselves succeeding just like their mentor has. It is much easier just to follow an advice that comes from someone who has made a name for himself by doing something similar—they kind of stand out as the living proof that legitimizes all the efforts that are needed to achieve whatever entrepreneurs want to achieve.

* Featured Image courtesy of Startup Stock Photos at Pexels.com

Reasons why having a female mentor is important for women

No matter in which industry you are planning to work in, finding yourself a mentor is always a good idea. This is particularly true if you are a woman trying to work for the first time in an industry that is mainly dominated by men and in which gender diversity is not a defined priority.

Suzzanne Uhland knows female mentors are very important for women who are planning to boost their working experience and enter into the business world. They are highly helpful when it comes to teaching their mentees about the way certain types of businesses work. Plus, they are key in the introduction of gender diversity in the labor market.

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When it comes to female mentors the traditional relationship between mentor and mentee has a different dynamic. Female mentors had to deal with adversity when trying to reach the point where they currently are at. They had to be tough and prove that they were capable of doing a “man’s job”. For this reason, they not only are in charge of guiding their mentees, they are also examples of endurance and success.

Keeping all this in mind, here are some reasons why it is important for women in the business world to find a female mentor:

Can help you boosting confidence

Female mentors are important for women because they help them boost their confidence in a market that is often populated mainly by men. This happens because female mentors are the living proof of limitless capabilities and possibilities. Also, they help women start creating their own network or link them to an existing one that can help them achieve their goals.

Another important fact that may help female mentees boost their confidence is that they will have someone looking out for them. This usually gives people the sense of support and allows them to feel more secure when learning about a process or making an important decision on their own.

Different type of working relationship

When it comes to finding a female mentor, the traditional scheme of mentor and mentee changes in a positive way. The hierarchical perspective of the relationship shifts and it becomes about two individuals trying to give their best at what they do. It is not like the mentor is going to lose its senior position or that the mentee is going to stop being a junior right away. But, it is about adding the human component and empathy to the relationship.

This shift in paradigms allows mentees to find their mentors in less formal contexts, such as networking events or simply by LinkedIn messages. This is especially significant in industries where not many women work and gender diversity should be encouraged.

Dealing with discrimination

It is very important for a woman to find a female mentor that can help her deal with problems and issues such as discrimination. It is very likely for the female mentor to have encountered discrimination during her career, especially in industries where women are a rare thing to see.

Workforces composed by men in the vast majority tend to underestimate the capacities of women. Sometimes, it is even possible to see how these workforces discriminate women because of their physical appearance.

Since this is old news for female mentors, they are probably the best individuals to guide women along the path of entering a new industry and face potential traces of gender discrimination. Female mentors can actually share some of their stories and give some hints and advice on how to deal with it and crack any industry that is dominated by men.

Sometimes, men don’t understand that this is a major issue for women because they have never had to deal with it during their careers. This is why women need to be guided by women because to win the game you need to understand how it works.

How can you find a female mentor?

After pointing out some of the reasons why it is important for business women to find themselves a female mentor, it is also important to give some hints on how to find one.

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There are many networks and organizations of women trying to help other women enter into the business world. Some of these organizations have already created professional mentor programs that aim to guide women through the process of entering the business world. Some other programs are more casual but are also useful to give the first approach to women who are still not sure about wanting or not to start working for an industry mainly controlled by men.

However, trying to find a female mentor can sometimes be hard, since there are not many of them and the mentor labor can be rather time-consuming. Despite this, it is always recommendable for women to take their chances and ask the person they want to be mentored by if they are available. In this case, both the mentor and the mentee need to make some arrangements and get their hands to it.

How Mentors Inspire Their People Everyday

I think we can all agree on the fact that our own career success can seldom be attributed to ourselves alone. There are many people who throughout our process has inspired, guided and taken us under their wing and aided our own personal and professional growth.

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Being a mentor is a rewarding opportunity in which you are able to make a visible change in the life of many and pride yourself in knowing that your knowledge remains as a legacy that you bestow upon those who choose to follow you and allow themselves to be inspired by your work. Likewise, having a mentor is a great opportunity to learn from the experience of others and diminish the steep learning curve that some professions require. As a mentee you can live experiences without having to go through them yourself, saving a lot of time and resources to better focus your efforts on making your experience unique and maximizing the use of all the information you are gaining by having mentoring sessions with a seasoned professional.

The thing about mentoring is that its value goes beyond the knowledge and skill mentees can gain from the relationship; it is also about acquiring valuable social skills that prepare pupils to thrive in a fast-paced world in which knowing things or having the ability to accomplish tasks is no longer enough to be successful.

A mentor is also a great mirror in which mentees can see themselves reflected and receive valuable feedback about aspects they may not be able to personally recognize, but when brought forth by an objective observer, can provide great insight over how to proceed and where to focus efforts. Perhaps one of the greatest things mentors do is inspire their mentees into reaching their full potential by giving them a great example to follow and a north by which they can guide their own compass.

Today in Suzzanne Uhland’s blog, we want to talk about the ways mentors inspire us and how their example and habits can be so influential in the way followers learn and even act themselves.

Work as a bridge

One of the most inspiring characteristics a mentor has to offer their mentees is their ability to work as a bridge between the interested party and their own network. Mentors are people who are well-connected due to their extensive experience, and that is something that makes them quite valuable and also highly admired because it shows that other people in the business respect them and can vouch for their abilities. A mentor who is well connected is a great example to emulate and follow, and thus an immense source of inspiration.

Accessibility

Mentors who are easy to reach and easy to talk to are very inspirational because that down-to-earth attitude shows that they are in touch with reality and understand the importance of their own role as leaders. Mentors should answer emails and other inquiries and make themselves accessible in order to properly perform their duties and also gain the confidence of those who follow them by making them feel like they matter and their time is also important to them.

They are mentees as well

It goes along with that humility to be able to see yourself as someone who is constantly learning. No matter who you are, there is always something new you can learn from others. An inspiring mentor is someone who sees their mentees as sources of knowledge and understands that there is much that can be learned from them as well. This type of attitude is intelligent, admirable and considered highly inspirational.

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Inspiration through feedback

Honest and thorough feedback is something that every mentor should be able to provide to his or her mentees; however, this isn’t always the case. A mentor who takes their time and truly analyzes the situation and provides their pupils with advice that is applicable and relevant is a great source of inspiration and a driving force towards personal and professional growth. Do not simply go through the numbers, make an effort to give valuable feedback to your people.

Humility and confidence

Being humble goes a long way and there are few things that can earn as much respect and instill so much confidence than a person who is able to admit when they do not know something or when they are mistaken. A great mentor doesn’t stop there because even though they may not have the answers right away, they will surely find a way to acquire them.

Charisma

Mentors are interesting and engaging individuals. Notice the way the carry themselves in all settings, and it will come as no surprise the reason why they are successful. This skill is particularly inspiring because it applies to all settings and not just business related situations. A mentor who know how to carry him or herself is a great source of inspiration to someone who is making a name for themselves in the world and getting to know how things really work.

Mentoring a teleworking team: A new and necessary challenge

The Internet is the cause of many of the social and cultural changes we face today. One of them is the way of working. This information technology has made many people prefer to work from their homes and other remote sites, rather than doing their labors from an office. In fact, several companies no longer have large headquarters, and most of their employees operate from home. In other words, the Internet has made companies more intangible (and perhaps more efficient because of this.) In consequence, the task of directing and mentoring the employees of a company must change. It is one thing to do mentoring in a traditional company (even if the mentor must travel from one city or another country to visit his or her mentees,) and another thing is to do it through Skype.

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So, in this post, I will analyze this situation and give some useful tips for a successful virtual mentoring.

Telework is an evidence that a company is primarily communications; a communications network, more than a group of people operating in a physical facility. This type of organization takes advantage of new technologies so that both parties, workers, and employees, can benefit from them. Telework offers a number of advantages, indeed.  It allows an employee, consultant, or contractor to work remotely from his or her home or another chosen place during a few days or the entire week. It is also an option for those days when an employee must attend to personal matters that will only require a reduced part of the day. However, teleworking may be quite challenging both for mentors and employees, since there is a lack of physical control over the mentoring processes, and some employees usually mix work and personal life, and it complicates their performance.

So, mentoring and managing teleworking employees requires a very concrete approach to what it means to ‘stay in touch.’ It requires a results-oriented management style with good planning performance of all employees.

Read also: What Can Mentoring Do For Me And My Career?, by Suzzanne Uhland

It is necessary to establish clear communication and to take additional steps to build proper trust and evaluation processes. Many corporations employ remote teams, and the manager communicates daily with his or her colleagues, as well as the employees in different parts of the world, not just by phone or email, but thanks to a set of new Internet-based tools, like WhatsApp. However, and mainly due to fears and lack of custom, many executives still find it very difficult to manage remote equipment.

In order to get the most out of your teleworkers team, you need to establish clear and regular communication to build trust and evaluating that the employees are working efficiently. It is important to keep in touch with them, and not only when it comes to business: Use webinars for training them, spend some moments of your day to ask them how it is going with them. Keep thing human.

Now, setting up tasks via email and providing an urgent contact channel is fine. But it may be much better if you use video conferencing software to which everyone has access, like Skype and Hangouts, because it allows you to see faces and to normalize relationships. It is important to keep in touch periodically. How much? Hold such meetings once a week, short and effective communications. Choose a day and an hour that suits most or, if necessary, divide your remote employees by time zones and create work groups. The ideal time may be early Monday to plan everything up from the beginning of the week, or maybe on Friday afternoon to check the evolution of goals and setting new targets for the next seven days of work. The important thing is ‘to bring them together,’ whatever day it may be. We are humans, social beings, we need this. In addition, this helps to impose schedules and thus contributing to the organization and overall responsibility.

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Technology is a great ally for business and opens many doors that would otherwise remain closed. It is basic to increase productivity and strengthen ties. But, again, you are working with people, and it is important to socialize in person. Just checking that everything is going well (or not) is never enough. They should feel an essential part of the company, and it is worth making an effort to meet them personally. It complements the daily emails and the weekly video conferences with face-to-face meetings between the local staff and the workers that operate from other parts of the world. Collect them in the same place. Buy the tickets and cover the expenses. Organize trips to the central office so people can meet in person and chat even once a year. It is their company, after all, so make them feel at home.

It is also important that you keep updated about the new technological developments for improving your communication. Telework mentoring is more than writing and checking emails. Be always curious about what can the new tools do for your business.

Recommended: Mentoring Virtually in a Teleworking Environment

Is there a difference between a mentor and a coach?

It is undeniable that the hype around coaching and mentoring is real: people hear a lot about both things, especially under today’s fast-paced and stressful circumstances. However, as the saying says, plenty of people have managed to go further that they thought they could just because someone else firmly believed they could. Although the terminology, and the words «mentoring» and «coaching», are seemingly—and often used—interchangeable, reality dictates otherwise; however, one thing is certain: both mentors and coaches can get to be highly meaningful and worthwhile resources. But, what is the difference between these two? And, moreover, how can people know which one they really need?

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Suzzanne Uhland has already mentioned valuable things about mentoring and different approaches to finding the right one irrespective of the stage; nonetheless, it is wise to first determine the distinction between mentors and coaches. Normally, or at least how tradition has previously shown, mentors were commonly assigned within a corporate organization to help its employees get acquainted with their roles. Today, and as of the emergence of the fourth industrial revolution and the digital era, mentors have shifted towards a more holistic approach and act as mere advisers regardless of whether they receive any kind of compensation or not.

Today’s most common connotation around mentors is that they embody successful persons who are always willing to share what they have learned and the wisdom they have acquired throughout their lives to provide accurate and useful insights to entrepreneurs and pretty much anyone willing to listen. One key aspect, nonetheless, is that they function differently: they always stay in a reactive-expecting position, helping people once they come across any sort of challenge. Thus, and even though a mentor may not have enough expertise in the mentee’s field, they are quite proficient at navigating the corporate world and the business field.

And that is an overall view of the mentoring end. Coaches, on the other hand, often have enough expertise in a particular field, and most of the times such expertise matches the field of the people they are helping. In general, coaches possess several certifications and strong and solid management skills. In the corporate world, coaches play a vital role in supporting different CEOs or venture capitalists as well as entrepreneurs. Their main function is to help them foresee any possible challenge in the upcoming future and come up with effective ideas on how to proceed and tackle them as they arise. Their nature, all in all, is somewhat proactive: coaches definitely enjoy participating and coming up with ideas that may help their customers and their coachees.

The intricacies of the relationship between a mentor and a mentee are rather open-ended: it can last for decades, whereas regular and traditional coaching happens for one specific reason, and once the issue has been addressed or solved, the relationship normally ends.

Which seems like the wisest choice?

After considering the aforementioned aspects in regard to the different intricacies of both relationships, people should already know which type of relationship suits them best and which would serve a much greater purpose; nonetheless, it is wise to consider the following aspects as well:

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Consider where are you now

Perhaps, one of the greatest factors, if not the most important, is the stage of the journey. An entrepreneurship enthusiast seeking to thrive in her or his business often needs a mentor who can provide guidance as to how to overcome basic challenges and how to tackle the issues that often arise when establishing a business. At this point, a mentor seems to be quite a good choice given the fact that they can provide a much wider spectrum of advice and connections that might come in handy for the business. As businesses grow, they tend to get more uncanny, and issues become more nuanced than in early stages. Once the business has reached this point, working alongside a coach seems a much better idea, especially if the coach also happens to work in the same industry; thus, the coachee will get a much better perspective towards the future.

Name your needs

Irrespective of the stage of the journey, if a particular individual has already identified a specific need, the wisest choice leans towards working alongside a coach. 

For example, if a startup or an already-established company is experiencing corporate development difficulties, which in turn prevent the company from scaling its business, a coach with expertise in such field will certainly be much better; however, if the same individual has not identified and named specific needs, and all she or he needs is proper guidance, a mentor would serve a much better purpose.

 

 

 

 

How To Boost Your Career By Mentoring

Mentoring is a practice that is becoming more commonplace today in companies that are successful and also care about the development and growth of their employees in both personal and professional fields. Here at Suzzanne Uhland’s Blog, we have explored the many reasons mentorships benefit the individuals involved in the relationship directly and how the company is indirectly greatly enhanced as well by providing the space, guidance, and motivation to harness mentoring as a tool towards evolution.

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In your own career progression, we are sure you can recall the times when you had to learn about a process or find a way to deal with a situation and realized you were faced with learning opportunities. After that, you became aware when these situations repeated themselves and were able to act accordingly based on your own experiences or if you were lucky enough, according to the teachings you received from a coach or mentor you had. Lastly, there is a time in which you are faced with being able to pass your knowledge down to others.

Teachings are in itself a very rewarding experience, but are there other things that I can expect to receive when investing my time and energy as a mentor? Are there other ways to boost my career by participating as an active member in a mentoring program and lending my time towards helping mentees grow personally and professionally?

Teaching is learning

Teaching is a powerful tool that allows you truly gauge your understanding of how things work. People have a tendency to believe that they understand concepts better than they really do. Through teaching, you actually become aware of your understanding as you try to instruct others on procedures or ideas. When you show someone how to do something, you understand details that you may have overlooked before, and thus you gain a deeper understanding yourself and learn from your own instructions as a result.

Building bridges

Having a great relationship with colleagues and coworkers is something that greatly aids the progression of your career. This type of internal networking allows you to have a closer relationship with the people you share your work with and that way you can ensure that people are collaborating and looking out of each other. Mentoring is an excellent way to strengthen those bonds and to create new ones with incoming personnel that has just arrived at the company or who have started their progression through the ranks.

Seeing your worth

Mentoring helps you evaluate your own career advancement and gain perspective in how much you have accomplished. When you are a mentor, you can see how far you have gotten by sharing this time with people who is just getting started in their own profession. Being able to see how you can contribute to the advancement of others and how influential those contributions become is truly uplifting.

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Leadership development

As a mentor, you have to guide and oversee people from different backgrounds and with diverse sets of skills, something that will truly test the potential of your leadership and management skills. Everything about being a leader from the way you deal with adversity in the manner you communicate with others will be tested when you become a mentor. This type of practice will only make you a much more capable manager.

Learning new skills

Everyone you meet can teach you something new. In a mentor-mentee relationship, that statement rings as true as ever because both individuals are given a great opportunity to exchange ideas and learn from each other in a real-world environment. Do not underestimate how much you can receive from your mentees even when you are the one who is supposed to be mentoring because in most cases both of those terms are interchangeable.

The organization

When you help others become more competitive and advance in their careers, you are at the same time strengthening the organization and giving back to the profession. As a leader, you know that the accomplishment of the mission is just as important as the welfare of the members of the company when you mentor you are helping address both of these factors.

Talent retention

Talented individuals should be retained, and a company must do everything within their power for these people to not just stay in the organization, but to never feel like they have a reason to leave. Mentoring is one of the ways you can contribute to the creation of an environment that makes workers feel appreciated and valued by the company.

Seeing the bigger picture

Mentoring gives you the opportunity to gain perspective from different levels of the organization. Sometimes your own privilege as a senior employee blinds you from seeing the issues that other members must face. This insight is unique and extremely valuable and being in a mentoring relationship allows you to have direct access to that particular stream of information.

 

The Best 3 Approaches To Finding The Right Mentor For You

A good mentoring relationship is something that many successful professionals give credit to when asked about how they got where they are. The benefits of mentorships are clear, measurable and evident to anyone who decides to even examine the matter and talk to those who have personally been involved in one of these great professional partnerships. Great mentors are people who have decided to sacrifice some of their time and effort in order to help someone else excel and attempt to reach their full potential.

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That aspect in itself is already commendable, but it is worth mentioning as we have said numerous times here at Suzzanne Uhland’s blog, that the proper mentoring relationship is a two-way street in which both parties are rewarded from the interaction in different manners. 

A mentee doesn’t let all the responsibility resting on their mentor’s shoulder, on the contrary, one could argue that mentees should be even more involved in helping guide the discussion and steer the course of the partnership, while at the same time finding ways to give back to their mentor by also sharing their knowledge and providing feedback that is extremely valuable for the mentor to assess their own interpersonal and leadership skills. 

People with the experience will tell you that there are few things as rewarding as seeing that your efforts are paying off when you are helping someone else get ahead in life, but at the same time you feel that the relationship nourishes you and helps you understand how to be better at what you do and how to make the most of everything you have experienced so far.

One of the most challenging parts of mentoring is actually finding the right mentor, or better yet, knowing what to look for in a mentor in order to choose the best person for you and also someone who can benefit just as much as you will during the partnership. In this article, we want to talk about 3 aspects you should broadly consider to make the right decision about your mentoring relationship and where it should lead you.

Thinking about short-term

Where do you want to be a year from now? This is one of the most typical questions people get asked at interviews, but there is a reason for that. Short-term goals are easily attainable benchmarks that can help you measure success in a short amount of time and also be motivated by seeing your own advancement. Having a mentor that is a reflection of where you want to be in the short-term is an excellent way to adjust your sights and start marching in the right direction. This type of mentor is great for helping take on small tasks and projects at your level because their experience is very similar to yours and they understand where you are since they were there not that long ago. These mentors can also help you gain insight on the company and aid you in finding ways to make your transition smoother as you try to get used to the new environment. This relationship can be quite informal, and you can take charge on getting started by discussing it over a cup of coffee as you socialize and get to know other people in the company.  

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Looking further ahead

While the previous mentor can help you think about how to best carry yourself on a daily basis inside the company, this second mentor is a person who can help you project to where you want to be in five years. This person can help with advice on how to advance in your field and within the company and how to accomplish your short-term goals but will your sights further ahead. Mid-level managers are exceptional individuals to look at when trying to find a “five-year-ahead” mentor since they occupy the positions where you may see yourself in the future while you are still part of the company and they already have some experience under their belt to share with you. Engaging into one of these relationships is a bit more formal and should be planned ahead. Treat it as if it were an interview and keep in mind that the person may not want to engage due to time constraints and other possible factors.

A Career Mentor

This advisor is someone who can help you answer the tough questions about where you want to go with your career and the ultimate goals you want to accomplish. A career mentor may work inside the company, or it could also be someone who has been successful in your field and you admire professionally. They take time to find, and you may have more than one through the years, but the one thing they will have in common is that they will become important to what you do and their opinion will matter on the decisions you make. A mentoring relationship is something to be cherished and cared for if you want to make the most out of it.