How To: Find and Work With a Mentor

by Amy Swift, Chief Product Officer, Ladies Who Launch
Illustration by Barbara Hranilovich

Dozens of women approach me with the question, “How can I find a mentor to help me with my business?” This is a common request because not everyone has a sister who’s a legal eagle or a father who works as an international advertising executive. As entrepreneurs, we want someone we can call on to ask a quick question but also someone to sit down with to discuss the longer, more arduous details of a deal or overall business strategy. And we don’t want to pay for any of it.

Many people who think they need a partner or vendor would actually be better served by a mentor. A mentor is seasoned in the business you’re in; they have wisdom and experience in your particular area and a vested interest (not monetary) in helping you achieve your goals. But mentorship is a two-way street. There are people who love to give advice and support to those who need it, but there are limits to how you can use a mentor relationship.
Here are some tips:

1. Finding a mentor. A mentor is generally someone who has a personal investment or interest in you. You can find a mentor through SCORE or StepUp Women’s Network, but the best kind of mentor is going to be someone who already knows you (or loves you!) and wants you to come out on top. Seek someone near and dear; if you don’t have anyone (even a friend of a friend) in your wider Rolodex, then pursue a formal relationship through a mentoring program.

2. Set reasonable expectations. A mentor is not going to solve all of your business woes. They should be used for periodic counsel, but they are not there to offer in-depth business advice (unless they offer that). Set your expectations accordingly.

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