“Small business, you can give them capital, but what they often need as much is mentoring, advice, and help with their business plan.” – Karen Mills
It is easy to feel overwhelmed in today’s competitive landscape. We’ve found that among other things, having a great mentor can give managers the edge that sets them apart from their peers and the competition. Let’s take a leaf from the business book: even Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, or Woody Allen, all have benefited from a fruitful mentorship. In fact, much research have proved the importance of mentorship as a form of efficient lifelong learning for managers.
Looking at the education sector in Australia for example, many of our most successful educators have had mentors supporting them through the early stages of their career; facilitating with the development of key leadership skills, and providing them with relevant feedback in a timely manner.
But how exactly does this work?
Mathew Jacobson, Founder and CEO of Dūcere, shares his top five reasons on why a mentor can be an invaluable asset for any educator.
1. Learn from their mistakes
Want to expand the portfolio of your training courses? Adopt a brand new organisation-wide learning management system? Downsize your staff? Whatever it is, chances are your mentor has “been there, done that”. They will be able to share their lessons with you, so that you don’t fall into the same dilemma or face similar challenges that they may have once had to experience.
Arguably, the biggest benefit of having a business mentor is having someone you can ask questions and get advice from.
“Mentors provide you with real life insight that you can apply to your career” says Mathew. They are an instrumental asset, someone you can use as a soundboard to bounce your ideas or concerns off. A great mentor will give you their honest opinions on what may or may not work so that you don’t fall into the same dilemma or face similar challenges that they may have experienced themselves. Not only can they help you avoid the foxholes on the road, they can also guide you to practical solutions and resources.
2. Grow your network
Another huge tick for having a mentor is the likelihood of growing your professional network faster than ever before. With years of experience under their belt, your mentor will have an extensive network of valuable contacts that may open up potential new career opportunities for you. Aided by them, you can participate in professional sharing and discussions to help improve your communication and interpersonal skills.
With a varied experience and background, this will provide you with great opportunities to not only test and apply learning, but to connect to communities more broadly. Mathew recommends not limiting yourself solely to networking with existing contacts. “Embrace social media platforms and online webinars to grow your professional networks; these are beneficial tools which may provide you with further opportunities and which are easily accessible.”
3. Free of charge
One of the best things about a mentor is that they (usually) don’t charge you anything, saving you thousands of dollars that may have been spent on working with a consultant with dubious results.
What many educators can benefit from is to understand that not only is it important to put in the hard work and be determined and eager to succeed, but it is also okay to ask for a bit of help along the way and share your success with others. It’s essential to ensure that it isn’t a one-way street and that you invite your mentor out for coffee or lunch to build upon strong foundations and grow the professional relationship.
4. Achieve new goals
A mentor will be able to give you clear career path initiatives, with real-world experiences to help you work out your next step. Mathew Jacobson suggests setting out short-term and long-term goals to provide a means of thinking about the future: “Work together with your mentor on setting out goals for your career path as this will give both yourself and your mentor a sense of achievement once each goal is ticked off the list.”
It has been suggested that individuals with mentors are far more likely to connect the dots between their abilities and their potential, their goals and their successes. According to Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, “both men and women with sponsors are more likely to ask for stretch assignments and pay raises than their peers of the same gender without sponsors.”
Or, as Zig Ziglar, very wisely, put it, “a lot of people have gone further than they thought they could, because someone else thought they could.”
5. Think outside the box
As a collaborative duo, you will be able to look at situations in a new light and bounce creative ideas off each other. Business mentors can help you look at a certain issue from perspectives that you might not have thought of on your own. For example, as an RTO manager, you may be too focused on the bottom line and compliance issues. Your mentor, who has been through this before, can remind you to re-evaluate your strategic goals and look at it from a student’s point of view, which in turns help you to identify a creative solution to your problem.
Learning is a continuous process and having a mentor who can inspire and introduce you to new possibilities is a valuable asset. See your mentor as a source of practical support and inspiration at a time when you need it most. They may be able to highlight areas that need improving that you may not have noticed and will allow you to develop fundamental skills to build on your strengths and weaknesses to further succeed in your chosen career.
Potential mentors can be found in a variety of ways, informal or formal. Every mentorship is unique, and the relationship may evolve (or dissolve) along the way. However as a general rule, we believe that professional development through mentorship can be highly beneficial to both mentors and mentees, playing a critical part in preparing education leaders of the future.
Opinion piece provided by Mathew Jacobson, Founder and CEO of Dūcere, an Australian-based online education provider offering courses in business and management. Mat’s overarching goal in life is to redefine tertiary education both at home and abroad. He believes by teaching through the world’s most successful public and private sector leaders, and fully utilising public sector institutions, this goal can be achieved.
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