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Guest Post by Shannon Reily
A business mentor can help take your business and overall strategy to the next level, but there are definitely some sharks to be found in the waters of the mentoring world. Not everyone is as they seem, and there are plenty of charlatans out there.
When I was in law school, I wanted to seek a mentor to help me with my plans to set up a law themed business after graduation. I ended up finding a great mentor through reaching out to law school career services, but not before I had gone through several horrific so-called mentors when I was still a prospective law school student.
Although most mentors are completely genuine, don’t get caught out by hiring a phony or ineffective mentor like I initially did. When you search for a mentor look out for the following red flags:
Always do as much research as possible on potential mentor candidates. If the mentor’s resume contains content that you think is over-exaggerated or overly vague, they probably aren’t legitimate. Trust your instincts and if you can’t find anything to confirm or elaborate on their resume claims, you should move on to the next candidate.
Of course a professional mentor usually requires to be paid, but if they are only interested in their paycheck, they are not doing their job correctly. They should make helping your business model succeed their first priority, and not make it all about their fees. Search for someone who charges a competitive rate, but whom also shows genuine passion for improving your company.
A mentor in business is usually someone who is extremely successful in their field, so they should be able to produce multiple references and referrals from past clients and co-workers. If a mentor declines to show you their references or does not reveal which companies they have run or worked with in the past, that is definitely a red flag. All mentors should have a portfolio that contains praising references, so be wary if he or she fails to produce these.
If a mentor you are interested in behaves unprofessionally in any way, they are probably best worth avoiding. Unprofessional red flags include not getting back to e-mails and phone calls promptly, arriving late and having poor interpersonal skills. A mentor is supposed to be someone who has reached a higher level than you in your career field, so a professional attitude and appearance is essential.
Even if your mentor is a self-made billionaire, they should not behave arrogantly with you, as you are ultimately their client. If a potential mentor appears to have an overinflated ego and full of themselves from the get-go, they probably will do little to help your company. Most people admire confidence but dislike arrogance, so make sure you recognize the difference when hiring a mentor.
Hiring a mentor takes a lot of time and consideration, and you probably won’t find the ideal candidate on your first attempt. Do plenty of research online and always cross examine resumes and ask for references. Mentors can help your business tremendously, so finding the perfect one is worth the effort. Good luck!