Entrepreneurs the world over have several things in common: they are self-starters, driven by their will to succeed, and highly motivated individuals. That said, the majority of those who have risen to the top of their game, becoming veritable titans of their respective industry, have done so with the aid of a particular influence: a trusted mentor.
To name just a few prolific examples, Larry Page of Google mentored Marissa Myers, CEO of Yahoo—in turn, Michael Bloomberg of Bloomberg L.P. was Larry Page’s mentor; Benjamin Graham was the mentor of Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway; and Maya Angelou gave wisdom and guidance to Oprah Winfrey.
This article will now go on to explore several key aspects that can come from the unique relationship that may flower from having a quality mentor.
CEOs are, in many ways, the modern day equivalent of the intrepid explorers of old. This corollary most especially applies to those who venture into the “uncharted waters” of business. The risks in doing so are profound, just as the potential rewards are incredible. Without this kind of bold exploration, the world would never have achieved air travel, long-distance communications, or any number of the innovations that have (quite literally) changed the face of the world and business itself in the last two hundred years.
Real Life Experience
Certain skills—often the most important ones—simply cannot be properly learned in a controlled setting such as classrooms and academic research. This is not to say it’s not wise to do your due diligence and proper study—not by any means. However, the point stands: there is no replacement for real world experience. And there is only one source of this vital knowledge outside of living it: those who have come before us.
Networking and Connections
Connections are worth their weight in gold, so to speak; perhaps even more so. While a great deal of business is done by merit, a blatant fact—good or bad—is that much still rests upon the names you know and the names that know you. Getting a personal introduction (even once, twice or three-times removed) can make all the difference between a connection made and a name forgotten.
A dedicated career professional may draw substantive support from any number of arenas: their family, colleagues, friends, even their ostensible rivals (perhaps a subject for a future article itself). There is, however, no source of support that can quite compare to that of a mentor. The reasons for this are manifold. A personally involved mentor delivers the kind of support that can only come from one who has walked the same walk, faced similar challenges, and overcome obstacles akin to the very ones that you may be facing. The level and degree of empathy that can come from one who has not only suffered the same issues, but overcome them, is unique in a very specific way. Much in the way that an old friend knows the nature of your thoughts and can express things in a meager platter of words—yet you both know (and feel) that complete understanding is reached—and shared. Rare as it is, this is the kind of support that a true mentor can offer.
In summary, the clever executive (even an aspiring one) has a plethora of things to gain from finding a genuine mentor, which makes the search for one—even a passive search, busy as you are—beyond worthwhile. Tap every contact, professional or personal, you can think of to make this a reality; the potential here is not one you should let pass without an effort.
At SC&C we offer Career Analysis to help senior decision-makers from all walks of life identify strategies and tactics to increase their value-add employment potential.