The Most Common Mentoring Mistakes Made By Companies And Employees

Here at Suzzanne Uhland’s blog, we have talked about many times of the clear advantages of having a mentoring program set up for your employees, as well as joining one as a mentor or mentee in your organization. Companies benefit greatly when they pair up their employees and thus bring new member up to speed on the company’s practices, procedures, and goals while at the same time investing in the development of new members of the organization. If you are a senior employee, then mentoring opens up a door of opportunities in a whole different way, by giving you the chance to learn skills that perhaps were not relevant during your own training and that are common with today’s younger generations, or also by helping you enhance your own leadership skills in a real-world environment.

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It is clear that the advantages are many and for everyone involved, but then again we have to talk about the most common mistakes organizations and individuals make when putting together, maintaining and participating in a mentoring program. Mistakes and wrong dealings when it comes to mentoring can develop to become difficulty seeing the advantages of the relationship, benefiting from being part of a mentorship and even result in the failure of the program itself.

These are some of the most common mistakes made when it comes to mentorships.

Sometimes even great mentors fail because they forget to do things such as reframing challenges in a way that can be easily understood and properly assessed by the mentee. Our frame of mind is something crucial when it comes to finding ways to deal with obstacles as things may seem impossible to solve and predicaments may feel impossible from where we are standing. Reframing problems allow us to remove ourselves from the predicament and literally find a new approach. A great mentor knows this and sometimes that is what sets them apart from the rest. Forgetting about reframing or simply tackling issues without changing our frame of mind is a big mistake in mentoring and one that even experienced participants easily fall into.

Another big mistake in mentoring happens when mentors simply give out the answers to mentees. Finding solutions is about coaching individuals and helping them reach conclusions on their own for the most part. A good mentor is not a person who solves issues for you; instead, they guide you and help you find the answers on your own while helping you stay on track while a goal has been set and a plan has been hatched.

The problem with giving a mentee the solution to their issue is that we are literally taking away from them the opportunity to grow and learn from experiences. The job of a mentor is to facilitate such learning opportunities and not to take them away from their mentees.

A great way to mentor is to ask questions. Instead of telling them what to do, have them answer questions about why they haven’t done something yet, thus making them really think about what is it that is stopping them from taking risks or to analyze aspects that they may have not considered before.

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As a mentee, one of the biggest and most common mistakes is choosing a mentor that is too similar to you. It is very comfortable to talk to someone with your same background and way of thinking, so developing that kind of relationship will be naturally easy, however, it isn’t recommended to avoid contrast when it comes to mentoring. You will learn the most from partners that are of a different gender and background because you will be exposed to a whole new spectrum of experiences that can enrich your own. Think also outside of your chain of command and go for someone who is not your direct supervisor so you can avoid conflicts of interest. Be bold and brave and get out of your comfort zone.

Another mistake mentees make has to do with asking for advice that is too general. Always be specific about your questions, about the issues that worry you and about the advice you want to receive. It is normal to not be clear about your needs at first, but finding out is part of the experience.

As an organization, one of the most common mistakes people make is wrongly pairing participants. Sometimes this is done at random and that spells out a recipe for disaster. Remember that not all senior members are willing to participate in mentoring, so this shouldn’t be something that is imposed on people. The trick is to find people who are excited about the opportunity to teach others and partner them with employees who have interest in advancing their professional life and goals that can benefit from receiving help from others with more experience.

The last and probably the most important mistake companies make is that they forget to follow up and supervise their own mentoring program. That could mean the end of the program itself, easily.

 

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The Best Tips For Making Your Mentoring Relationships Successful.

 

Mentoring relationships are rich alliances in which both parties bring their best to the table in a joint effort to come out a better version of themselves at the end, not only professionally but also personally as well. As with most relationships, this is hard work and it requires practice and dedication in order to make the best out of the experience. Both parties must be willing to conform to the rules, to be honest, and forthcoming and to give their best effort when it comes to receiving advice and also giving it when needed. It is more common to see senior members of the organization paired up with much younger executives who want to take advantage of their experience so they know how to navigate the waters of career advancement. It isn’t different when it also works the other way around, when senior members utilize the skills of their mentees so they can learn about aspects of the business that they are not familiar with; things like technology, new trends and the evolution of the business itself towards places that are different from what they are used to.

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Today in Suzzanne Uhland’s blog we want to talk about some advice that can be useful for both mentors and mentees by helping them truly appreciate their mentoring relationship and learn from the mistakes and lessons that others have learned before from them. Remember that even if you look at mentoring as a bond in which someone takes the time and effort to guide a junior employee, that doesn’t mean the mentee is out of the hook when it comes to being responsible for giving back in this symbiotic partnership.

For mentors

Be an active listener. Listening is more than just sitting there and being quiet while the other person goes on about their life, their observations and postulate questions. Active listeners sit up straight, engage the speaker and annotate the information they receive so they can come back and review it. Using non-verbal language is extremely important in this engagement exercise and it works two ways: not only it allows you to show your mentee that you are interested in what they are telling you, but also it helps you process information in a way that gives you the best chance to answer back with insights that are truly useful and on point when it comes to advising for the best course of action.

Part of being an active listener also has to do with actually listening and trying not to talk so much. Some mentors believe that their job is to tell stories and illuminate their mentee with their particular clever insight on every situation. While this isn’t entirely wrong, you must know how to balance your speaking with your listening, as you need to make the right assessment as to how you can help, and how you cannot. Encourage independence and understand that your way of doing things may simply be one of the many ways out there to get things done. Personal anecdotes are great, but they should now take up all of the time you have together. Try listening and allowing your partner to talk so you can get a better read of what is going on and how you can help out.

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For mentees

Understand that most of the work has to come for you. You have to know that you are primarily being benefitted in these relationships and while you do bring a lot to the table if you do your part, there is a component of sacrifice and compromise that you must always keep in mind. Mentors are busy people who take time out of their days to share their knowledge and experience with you, so be sure to take responsibility for making the relationship work.

Keep in mind that your goals have to be clear and it is your job to define such goals. You must know what you want in order to achieve it, especially when you are consulting with someone as to which is the best way to do so.

Be curious and inquisitive at all times. You cannot be helped if you are not interested in what you are doing and a mentor will be motivated when they see you trying to improve. Always write down questions before sessions so you can talk about things that are important and you are not there just wasting the time of all parties involved. Make yourself available for your mentor and always make sure that you meet deadlines and keep appointments. Be honest and open about your doubts and trust the person you chose as a guide since they are a reflection of your projection for a better professional career and the advancement you want to reach as an individual. Always have a positive attitude and understand that being better requires a lot of hard work.

Everything You Need To Know About Mentoring Millennials

Those who were born between the years of 1977 and 1997 are today considered over half of the workforce in the world, and in many companies, they are the overwhelming majority indeed. Millennials have a very different way to look at work, as they no longer feel that is an aspect of life that must be balanced with the other activities that constitute their existence, instead they see their employment as an important part of who they are and thus they look for work that they find empowering and personally fulfilling. Having these types of expectations from their work doesn’t come by itself as they also expect their job to afford them the opportunity to meet new people, network and tap into a higher purpose. That last point is probably one of the most important factors that create a key difference between this generation and the ones that came before them and it is the main reason why we want to focus on this article here at Suzzanne Uhland’s Blog.

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One of the first things to keep in mind is the fact that while millennials have very high expectations of their employees, they also set very high standards for themselves, mostly because they are used to surviving such a competitive environment that hosts a large population of young professionals with relatively few good positions in the job market. These conditions also mean that unlike any other generation, they expect their companies to be part of their path to success and expect much from partnering with mentors, an opportunity that can be quite fulfilling for all parties involved and for the organization in which the relationship develops.

Letting go of the traditional mentoring models is a great starting point for partnerships today. Normally the human resources area of sets up these programs and then pair together young employees with senior executives. They agree upon periods of evaluation to check progress and pretty much leave everything on hands of the mentor who is not only responsible for producing results but also for setting up a method to gain such results. The problem with this programs is that they are very generic and do not take advantage of all the potential that is coming together from both sides of the table. Millennials want to be more involved with the entire process and be active participants in their own mentoring.

For this type of people, is it important to work alongside those individuals they admire and whose position in the company they want to occupy one day. This is why it is so important for companies to ensure their senior managers are deeply involved with the mentoring programs and that they ensure these leaders are engaged and willing to participate.  

Reverse mentoring is another key aspect that comes into play when mentoring millennials in today’s workplace. We have mentioned in numerous occasions that successful mentorships should not be a one-way street, but instead work in a way that there is a mutually beneficial relationship with two sets of shoulders carrying the burden of responsibility and reaping the rewards that come along. Reverse mentoring identifies skills that are not so common in senior executives but that younger professionals possess, and create an environment in which a proper exchange of ideas can develop.

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Group mentoring is another great tool at a company’s disposal that can open the floor up for some great opportunities for sharing information. Senior executives can be assigned to groups of individuals interested in mentoring, or even a pool of candidates can engage in some peer-to-peer mentorship in which the group as a whole identifies goals and clearly highlights areas of interest. One of the best advantages of this approach is the fact that is less resource demanding and it gives a lot of control to those involved over the decisions they want to make when it comes to their career and the direction in which they want to steer towards.

All of these approaches offer their own sets of benefits and can help those involved reach their goals at different rates and with different levels of success. The most important thing in these cases is being able to empower employees and make them feel like they are part of the process, give them a chance to participate and give back to a company that takes the time of set up mentoring opportunities and more important of all, allows them to improve upon their leadership skills, something that many consider the most beneficial aspect of mentoring. Millennials are people who understand the value of great leaders and who are adventurous enough to take on these roles personally and carry on with courage and drive towards fulfilling their roles at the workplace. We can sum up by saying that flexibility and trust are the most valuable assets a company can provide when it comes to mentoring for a younger generation of professionals.

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Why people in the business world need a mentor?

When trying to start or impulse a business, many people start asking themselves questions like “how can I be successful?” or “is this the right way to do things?”. When this happens the recommendation is always the same: find yourself a mentor.

Finding a mentor is as important as having a great business plan. This happens because being able to nurture your business with the experience and advice of someone who has proven to know that it’s doing, is key to success.

No matter how good you did in school, how many people you know or how much potential you have if you don’t know how to use the tools at hand, your odds of succeeding decrease considerably. This (among other reasons) is why it is so important for individuals in the business world to find a good mentor.

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In this article, Suzzanne Uhland will share some reasons why it is crucial for people to find a mentor.

1 . It has been proven

The recommendation of finding a mentor in order to have better results in the business world is not a mere subjective opinion. According to Steven Berglas, from Forbes Magazine, studies show that those who have a mentor are proven to be more successful than those who never get one.

2 . It has no cost

What? Having a mentor is free? The answer to this is “yes, it is”.

Many people may find this hard to believe. But, a mentor is different than a coach and it doesn’t charge a dime. It is not about an insufferable case of generosity, it is about gratification for both the mentor and the mentee.

Usually, those who become mentors are already successful in their business field. They don’t need to be paid for the service they provide. Mentors do their job with a sense of serenity and gratification, knowing that they are contributing to the creation of a better world.

Besides all this, mentors tend to create a personal bond with their mentees. For this reason, the importance they give to their job, the love they have for their mentees and the knowledge they have to pass isn’t for sale.

3 . Relationships are personal

This is another item that many people may find hard to believe. This happens because most successful businessmen are well-known for being ruthless, and not giving a dime for others.

However, this is not entirely the truth. Actually, it is not even true for the majority of individuals in the business world, especially when it comes to mentorship.

Relationships between mentors and mentees are often personal. Mentors choose their mentees or vice-versa based on affinities or common interests. Sometimes, these relationships star without even knowing they are taking place.

A good way to illustrate this is the knowledgeable professor you met in business school and helped you boost your entrepreneurship. Or that experienced boss who looked after you when you were first starting to create your own company. All these people become part of their mentees’ lives and influence them in a personal and professional way.

4 . Inspiration is important

A mentor is an example to follow, and inspirational figure. They represent what any businessman wants to achieve. This is one of the reasons why finding a mentor is vital for a business to succeed.

Picture yourself as an entrepreneur who is struggling with many things. You still don’t know if you will make it to the next month and you wonder if what is happening to you has ever happened to anybody else. Then you look at your mentor and listen to its story. Suddenly, you find yourself in front of an individual who had to deal with countless ups and downs and succeeded in the end.

Mentors motivate entrepreneurs to keep moving forward. They become the inspiration we all need to succeed. They help us solve problems in a creative and useful way. They are also individuals that we respect, therefore, we are willing to follow their advice all the time.

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5 . Firsthand information and experience

It is not very likely for a person to be able to learn from the experiences told in books about how its business should be managed. Mentors are key to learn from the practice and not just the theory. They help you go through new situations and motivate you to learn about numerous subjects all at once.

A mentor is the voice of experience and knowledge. It is the best source any individual in the business world has to investigate about what may happen to its business or how to react to a difficult situation.

A mentor is not going to take a parental position. But, it will work as the perfect guide for the perfect situation. It will provide the necessary advice and recommendations to any situation that needs to be taken care of. Prove to this is that, all good mentors where once mentees.

Mentoring: A key tool for talent retention

Any organization that seeks to maintain its competitiveness must seriously consider the issue of talent development and management, especially as regards a clear problem of our time: Employees, especially those of the new generations, do not usually stay in the companies they work for a long time. This involves a series of expenses in time and in money (especially when it comes to training processes,) and it really represents a problem for a large number of organizations around the world. One of the measures that may be implemented to deal with this problem is mentoring. I will first analyze the problem of human talent retention, and then I will get deeper into what mentoring can do to provide intelligent solutions.

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The flight of talent has its origin in the mishandling of human resources which has been made from the management of organizations. The lack of understanding leads to the abandonment of thousands of jobs a year. The reasons for the flight of talent are sometimes ignored by the managers themselves who prefer using imperative leadership methodologies, more typical of the old times, in order to imitate the successes of their predecessors.

Still, it is necessary to understand that the world has evolved since then, and the old models are now historical records for the new generations, which point to circular forms of management, based on internal communication and the promotion of labor well-being. Ignoring the adaptation to the new models of human capital management may lead to a serious problem, which not only impacts the future of the company but, on a large scale, would mean a threat to the global economy itself.

The old forms of leadership are outdated and must give way to the new generations based on communication and mutual understanding between leader and worker. Millennials are the generation that opens the door to change. This generation is providing a continuous evolution to improve this and to adapt to the new forms of management for the coming generation, which is eminently digital. At present, the motivation to work, the fact of achieving a good working weather and the family conciliation are the key aspects to get the workers involved in the corporate culture. The philosophy of work of the present century has its roots in the happiness of employees: A happy worker is a productive worker.

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Now, mentoring is a key tool to retain the best-qualified staff of companies. However, even though it has several benefits, it is extremely important that you learn how to use it and implement it correctly. This strategy is related to progression, growth and professional challenges. It consists of a process through which a more experienced person, the mentor, teaches, assists, offers possible paths and contributes to the personal and professional growth of the mentee by investing time, energy, and knowledge. Mentoring, besides being a catalyst for the continuous learning process in the company, shortens the learning curve and is useful for structuring the training that takes place in the workplace. However, it is necessary to know the process well, as the benefits that can be obtained, the objectives that are pursued, and the frequent barriers for an adequate mentoring design.

Read also: Deconstructing the benefits of mentoring: Is it worth it?, by Suzzanne Uhland

Mentoring should be incorporated as part of the development strategy of people within a company and be considered as part of the values of the organization. The same workers can volunteer to mentor the new members of the company, and, during the execution of this plan, the company will be concerned with the professional development of all of them, since the mentors need to study a bit more to teach.

A mentoring program is divided into stages. First, the mentor and mentee’s expectations regarding the learning process are developed, the objectives to be attained are established, and the sessions are planned. Then, the mentor should take the reins of this process and be proactive, by learning everything he/she can from to achieve the goals. To optimize this program, the company must apply it as a tool to retain and capture talent, with the support of the management of the organization, and, in this regard, it is vital to count on enough resources of time and money.

A successful implementation of a mentoring program benefits the company since the staff feels more positive, participatory, and integrated. It usually increases its productivity, performance, and motivation, and promotes an organizational climate. Mentoring builds technical and managerial skills, optimizes the selection and development of new talent, which is recruited with high potential standards and levels of competence, among others. If you implement this mentoring plan, your employees will thank you for the concern you have for them and their loyalty to your company will rise.

The implementation of mentoring is a great effort for the organization; for each mentor and mentee. That is why the results are really stimulating, taking into account the personal and professional growth which is noticed from the beginning.

Recommended: Why retention will be the biggest Talent Challenge of 2017

Deconstructing the benefits of mentoring: Is it worth it?

More and more companies incorporate mentoring programs to educate their employees, and this leads us to the question: What is a mentoring program for? What are the keys to success in this activity? What benefits do the mentees get with this process? Why is a mentor willing to transmit his or her knowledge and time free of charge to another person?

All these questions have answers, but it is important to begin by dealing with the question about the essence of mentoring. The fact is that this is a practice whereby one person educates another through the exchange of his or her own resources, knowledge, values, skills, points of view, attitudes, and competences, within an organization. To this extent, it is not possible to consider mentoring the mere exercises of evaluation or direction that are carried out in a company. Mentoring, rather than qualifying someone’s skills, involves teaching, re-phrasing concepts, and helping mentees to find paths that lead them to his or her goals. Mentoring is not, in a strict sense, a sponsorship (although there is a type of mentoring that points to it.)

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Read also: Mentoring techniques: Which suits you best?, by Suzzanne Uhland

Mentoring allows a mentee to develop skills and new knowledge, and help him or her to achieve concrete goals. To the mentor, this activity offers the opportunity to develop different perspectives, ask new questions, learn about other concerns and expand the personal and professional vision. After all, someone who teaches something learns double and faces the great challenge of defining and confirming what he or she knows and does not know.

The mentor’s job is a tremendous challenge. It aims to contribute to the learning process of the mentee, and this means, among many things, that, in addition to the conversations proper to any encounter, mentors can facilitate new contacts of whom mentees can learn, and thus can contribute to the acquisition of knowledge. A mentor teaches what no one teaches you in college. These tricks of everyday life, those long years translated into experience, can be transferred in some well-taught lessons and assimilated. This not only contributes to the proper functioning of a company, which may have worked in a certain way for a long time, and it may be desirable that this continues to be so, but is a very useful learning for any newbie who wants to perform as a professional and as a person.

As the mentoring relationship progresses, the mentor also serves as an advisor. To do this, it must respond to the mentee’s need to contrast his or her own ideas. The mentor also acts as a counselor, and for this purpose brings his or her views and opinions based on experience, as well as the transmission of new perspectives, which help the mentee to make better executive decisions.

The global nature of companies is a feature that is increasingly present throughout the market for goods and services. This, in turn, requires professionals to be more open and connoisseurs of new environments. For this reason, it is important to ask about the strategic reasons that companies should develop in terms of a mentoring project.

The most common reason is usually internal support or a valuable talent for the organization. This tool is also often used to facilitate succession plans, to boost the career of employees, to improve the retention of key personnel within the company, or to help the integration of workers in the company or new positions.

It is a known fact that managerial productivity increases to almost ninety percent when a mentoring project is implemented. This, compared to almost twenty-five percent productivity when we talk about traditional business training. It is also known that minds can improve up to eleven core competencies much more effectively than traditional methods. In fact, thirty-five percent of the most talented workers who have not received mentoring usually seek a new job in no more than two years. This means that the rotation of a company, which in some cases is irrelevant, in others is positive, and in others is counterproductive, depends to a large extent on the presence of mentoring processes within an organization.

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In consequence, it is necessary to increase high-level learning, and, at the same time, to re-create training times and costs. Programs and courses for managers are not common. The exchange of mentors and mentees provokes very profitable relationships for all the participants and does not imply great investments for the companies.

It is normal for many people to be skeptical on mentoring. After all, this is a novel and a reactionary way of traditional training in the business world. Although it is not a new issue (if we analyze the history of Ancient Greece, we could find mentoring processes, somehow,) in the conservative business world is not even thirty years old.

Actually, its benefits are very interesting and the reasons for not using it (which could imply lack of time or the small size of some companies) are very few in terms of the positive aspects of this practice.

Recommended: Four Key Benefits of Workplace Mentoring Initiatives

 

5 words of advice on how to get the most out of your mentor

Suzzane Uhland has written quite a lot about mentorship and how to be a good mentor. The most important thing regarding this topic is to really determine the true importance and value of mentoring.

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Many people, after being accompanied by different mentors throughout their professional careers, end up developing certain pleasure about becoming a mentor themselves. Throughout this process, they spend their whole careers building their own advisory group: year after year, they create a solid group of advisors—those who have helped them take a step forward or overcome any difficulty. Oftentimes, mentors act as a mere conversational partner: bouncing and discussing ideas back and forth with someone who is more experienced in that particular field is actually way richer and more rewarding than sitting through an endless lecture. Many people actually assert that this has helped them see with more clarity what they may not have understood before.

Other times, however, leaders act as those people needed to tell others in need how to proceed or to provide them with enough encouragement so that they feel compelled to keep moving forward. In short, the benefits of having a mentor at any moment are clear: they help people to be their best selves.

Nonetheless, it is important to mention that even though mentors are seen like an authorized voice in a specific field, and even though they provide mentees with enough reasons to take risks, keep moving forward and strive for what they want, at the end of the day, mentees are the ones responsible for making their own choices. Mentors are not just there to tell mentees whether they need to follow a specific direction. No. Instead, they provide the guidance needed for mentees to make up their minds and subsequently make a decision about the path they want to follow.

So, although the aforementioned description may sound a bit general, it is also important to mention that there are different types of mentors. Moreover, there are different ways to approach them and use them. Here are several words of advice on how to get the most out of a mentor:

First

A good mentor takes mentees out of their comfort zone. Period. There will always be a sheer array of individuals ready to provide such degree of comfort; however, a good mentor is the one who actually encourages their mentees to try new experiences in hopes of discovering something new about them. Many people, especially entrepreneurs, recall seeking advice with mentors who practically forced to leave their comfort zone and they ended up excelling and thriving in a different, totally unknown field.

Second

A good mentor possesses an accurate understanding of the mentee’s strengths and weaknesses: they are capable of accurately grasping the intricacies of the individuals that approach them seeking help. Mentees should always strive to improve their weaknesses. That is obvious, of course. Nonetheless, in order to that, they need to seek a mentor who will complement them instead of seeking one who is rather similar to them. Finding someone different means he or she possesses a varied and different set of skills.

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Third

Get the most out of mentors. Whenever individuals find their mentor or their main advisor they tend to relax. The sense of being accompanied often ends up being detrimental for this self-improvement process. Try not to get used to the fact that mentors are “always” available, because, sadly, they are not. That is what makes their advice so valuable.

Fourth

There will always be an imbalance between the mentor’s vision and the mentee’s vision. Actually, the mentee’s vision, due to several reasons, might differ from reality, especially the reality of the things around their concerns. This scenario suggests that mentees should be constantly working on the relationship with their mentors in order to avoid any misalignment with the mentee’s goals.

Fifth

Do not feel like it is necessary to find someone in within the same industry or within the same location. Of course, mentees should always consider looking for both men and women as their mentors. It is particularly important to find those who happen to be highly different in comparison since this way mentees will be provided with a much broader spectrum of possibilities and perspectives. Never forget: under today’s circumstances, in today’s digital juncture, it has never been more possible to build and foster a successful mentor-mentee relationship: there are plenty of communication tools—Skype being the most widely used, FaceTime and several chats that allow individuals to interact with each other.

The fourth industrial revolution brought along endless possibilities and allowed the unthinkable. As someone looking for a piece of advice irrespective of motivation, today it is possible to get past boundaries and find the perfect individual. Whether as entrepreneurs or professionals looking to improve their performance at their jobs, having a mentor nearby (and learning from them) is a highly valuable thing.

* Featured Image courtesy of Public Domain Pictures at Pexels.com