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  • 16 January 2014
  • Eric Michaels

Giving Back: How to Become A Mentor

Was there a guiding force that inspired you to think big and forge a career path on your own? Behind every entrepreneur, there is usually an influencer who was there to challenge you to achieve on a grander scale. In fact, if you ask your mentor, there is an excellent chance that he or she considers the experience just as valuable. Giving back is one of the most rewarding things you can do in the course of a professional career. January is Mentoring Month — here is how to become a mentor so you can share and reinforce what you have learned thus far.

Know your best qualities

You may pride yourself on superior productivity or digital marketing skills, but step back and make an honest assessment of your strongest suit. Survey the awards you have won through the course of your career and recall why a certain boss gave you a promotion — or the reason your employees and clients became your devotees. Those skills are the ones that would benefit someone most when trying to break out in a career. Make sure you are qualified to give that advice. If you clarify something about yourself in the process, you are doing it right. Becoming a mentor is rewarding on both sides of the equation.

Identify who can use your help most

Entrepreneurs proud of their achievements often look to mentor high school students or others who they believe would benefit most from their wisdom. That impulse is noble and spot-on in many cases, but you might be ignoring someone already under your wing-that is, one of your employees. As the founder of Ciplex Ilya Pozin wrote, mentoring a gifted but struggling employee might be the best fit of all. You might not feel the same exhilaration you get from helping someone outside your circle, but the impact you make on an employee could be more rewarding for the student. Keep the focus on him or her.

Discover what will keep you engaged

In a mentor-student relationship, it takes energetic engagement on both ends to make the bond a success. To keep up your end of the bargain, think about what will keep you interested and active in the coming years. The answer will usually involve interests you never considered resolved during your career. Maybe you want to see if success with one marketing approach didn't discourage you from trying an alternative, or perhaps you would like to examine in detail what made your product so successful. Keeping yourself engaged is crucial when you are considering how to become a mentor. There is so much you will discover by digging deeper.

Keep expectations realistic

Giving back can be inspirational and fulfilling. However, it may also be a slow grind, a slog without immediate rewards. Transformations take time — if they happen at all — so stay realistic about expectations and be satisfied with the process itself. It likely took years for some elements of a mentor's advice or example to sink in for you. Hunker down for a process without instant gratification. That is why it is important to engage someone who inspires you on the same level. You will never tire of giving back when you energize your own professional development simultaneously.

There are several paths to take when deciding how to become a mentor. Since 1964, SCORE, "Mentors to America's Small Business," has helped more than 9 million aspiring entrepreneurs. Each year, SCORE provides free and confidential small business mentoring and workshops to more than 375,000 new and growing small businesses. If you are interested in becoming a SCORE mentor, volunteer today.

Fortunately, no matter what path you decide to take on your mentorship journey, nearly every one leads to fulfillment for both parties, so do not hesitate to embrace the challenge.

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