As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, yesterday morning the business minister Mark Prisk announced a doubling in the size of the Mentor SME network. This increase in the mentoring support for entrepreneurs followed hot on the heels of last week's announcement from Theresa May of a new scheme to provide mentors to female entrepreneurs.
There is a growing recognition of the importance of having a mentor to act as a role model, to guide you through new challenges and to push you to the next level. While the two Government backed schemes mentioned above focus on entrepreneurs, mentors are equally important within large organisations. Indeed, many of my clients operate a mentoring programme for their staff.
Despite the increased profile of mentoring and the support available, the vast majority of people I speak to still don't have a mentor. Even where a formal scheme is in place it seems that few people really make the most of the opportunity.
Is this because we still seem to thrive in a culture of not admitting weakness or asking for help and ploughing through on our own, regardless of the fact that we could be repeating the same mistakes others have learned from in the past?
Or is it just laziness? Despite the support being available, we are so focused on getting the job done that we don't have time to turn for help to people who could help us get it done better and more quickly.
Whatever the reason, if you don't have a mentor then you are simply making life more difficult for yourself. You can find people through formal schemes such as the one mentioned, you could approach someone you know through your network and ask for their help or you could ask someone whose work and whose career progress you admire and you'd like to emulate.
A good mentor does not necessarily have to come from within your own firm or even your own industry. Understand what you want to achieve and the support that you need and then ask yourself who can best be your guide on your journey.
If you approach someone and they can't help, don't be put off. Ask who else they recommend or have someone else in mind to approach. If you don't ask for help, it won't be volunteered.
If you feel that you are in a position to help others on their journey, find out how you can put yourself forward as a mentor too. It doesn't take too much time and can be very rewarding. And if you've received help in the past yourself (or even if you still are), maybe it's your turn to give something back.
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