It’s kind of funny to me, that after quite some years of being an entrepreneur, people come to me to ask for advice about their starting business (who, me?). It still feels weird, but I’m always happy to help. Because the start is HARD, man.
The ONE tip that has become my mantra is to find yourself a mentor. Or, better still, multiple mentors from different backgrounds. Why? I’ll give you a couple of reasons, followed by some personal experiences with my mentors, for whom I am eternally grateful.
Building a career or a business is not something you can learn overnight or that can be taught out of a book. Sure, there are some tips and tricks that come in handy for specific aspects of your career. But when you are just starting out, remind yourself of this Socrates quote: I know that all I know is that I do not know anything. It’s the truth. And you can’t and shouldn’t have to know everything right away. So find yourself a mentor because his/her years of experience can help manoeuvre the path towards a successful business or career, as well as avoid commonly made mistakes a bit more easily.
Being an entrepreneur is a hell of a lonely job. Starting a career can be a rollercoaster ride. It’s unpredictable. You’ll never know from one day to the next what you will be doing. And the sheer amount of grit needed to keep on going when nothing seems to work or when people try to take you down is immeasurable. A mentor can help. They can reassure you that you are on the right path. They can make you feel less alone. Good mentors will share personal stories about their journey and what it took for them to find stable ground. And when starting out, it is the BEST when you have someone standing on the sidelines, cheering you on. Someone who has been there, done that.
I’m doubting if one word is enough here. A mentor usually has a bigger network then you have. It’s a bit like standing on the shoulders of a giant, which is just awesome. Your talent will not be spotted just because you EXIST. The same goes for your company. Just because you have a website, app or product, doesn’t mean people will notice you. But when you become the talk of the town because your mentor goes everywhere and knows a lot of people, that will definitely help you grow.
For me, these were the main reasons to reach out to some people around me and ask them to become my mentors. I’ll tell you, it was scary to ask for something that seemed so big. I felt arrogant for asking these people for their valuable time. Why would they ever help ME? Of all people, me and my little company. What could I ever bring to the table?
But almost all of them told me: I want to give back. Sharing your experience is great in general and when it helps others grow, you grow as well. That thought helped me. I’d do the same for a starting entrepreneur approaching me with this question in a couple of years from now.
If you’re not convinced yet, maybe this will do it. My mentors have:
- Helped me find new clients from within their network when the business was in a rut during the period of building up my business.
- Talked me out of feeling like sh*t when I made stupid mistakes. I could literally cry over those mistakes. All they did was laugh out loud, tell me to get it together, followed by the wise words: at least you won’t make THAT mistake again. Mistakes help you grow. It’s the best when someone holds up a mirror for you to show you: this is the moment in your life where that mistakes-cliché holds true for you.
- Steered me in the right direction when I had to make strategic Because, with my two and a half years of experience, I am by no means a seasoned entrepreneur. My vision into the future is very limited just because of a lack of experience but theirs isn’t.
Most of all, I love my mentors because they truly make me feel like I have a seasoned group of people to fall back on, whatever the circumstances. It helps me make bolder decisions because I know these people, whom I value very deeply, will believe in me as an entrepreneur and will help me get back up on my feet when needed.
So, to all starting entrepreneurs, fresh university grads, trainees and career women;
Find yourself a mentor – ASAP.
Anne Pleun van Eijsden.