Why you might need a mentor

by Jennifer Chamberlin
March 2021


Succeeding as an entrepreneur can be challenging. Indeed, for me it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted.  I’m so grateful for the support I have received throughout my journey. Quite simply, I wouldn’t have made it this far if I hadn’t been supported by coaches, other VAs, my friends and my family. That’s why in this article, I’m going to highlight why you need a mentor.

Who supports you in your endeavours? Do you have someone you can rely on to be there when you need help or advice? A mentor can be a key element of the support system that you put into place for your business.

Why You Need A Mentor

Everyone, even VAs, need some form of support. When things get tough, it’s comforting to have somebody you can trust to turn to.

Some of the most successful people attribute their success to a strong relationship with a mentor. Many say that having a special person to guide them, was the main reason they were able to reach their full potential.

Sir Richard Branson - had the mentorship of Sir Freddy Laker when he was getting Virgin Atlantic to fly.

Steve Jobs – had Mike Markkula an Angel Investor who was the overseer that kept Apple’s brand vision on track. Steve Jobs wrote in his biography:

"Mike really took me under his wing. His values were much aligned with mine. He emphasised that you should never start a company with the goal of getting rich. Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last".

Bill Gates – had Warren Buffet. In a television interview, Gates, the founder of Microsoft, credited Buffet’s belief in his abilities and assistance as a mentor, investor and benefactor to the success of the company.

A mentor can empower you, open doors that may otherwise be closed, and help you to focus clearly on your goals. With their help, you can overcome any challenges you face together and advance your business faster and in ways you may otherwise never have considered.

Whatever your goals, having a mentor by your side is a great way to help you succeed.

What is a mentor?

A mentor is a person who imparts their professional knowledge, wisdom and expertise to someone with less experience. They will help you to hone your skills and guide you in a friendly and supportive way. A good mentor always has your best interests at heart and will ensure that the tutelage they provide meets or exceeds your needs.

Your mentor should be able to help you define what you need to succeed and how to achieve it. They can help you build a professional network and make contacts that might have been closed to you without their help. All of this should be done in the manner of a business friendship.

A good mentor will give you the ability to find solutions to your own problems, they won’t preach what they believe to be the best path.

So what are the key qualities to look out for when you decide that you would like to work with a mentor?  It is important to find someone who is empathetic to your worries, that they  know how to actively listen rather than talking at you. This is a skill not everyone has! They must be able to ask questions, to dig deeper and to challenge you. They can help you find a route to growth and the next level. Finally, your mentor must be someone who will be by your side, in  the trenches with you.

It is equally important to understand what a mentor is not, or cannot ever be. They are not an all knowing sage on the mountain top and they will not have all the answers.

What Sort of Mentor do you Need?

When looking for a mentor, you should think about the people who you admire and believe would be useful to you as a business guide. A good mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be someone with a big company or even be in a senior role, they just need to be a person who you think is excellent at what they do and whose skills would be beneficial to learn.

Make a list of potential mentors and then ask yourself these questions, if you can answer yes to all of them, then that person is likely to be suitable. Do you:

  1. Already have contact with this person?
  2. Admire what they do?
  3. Believe you could work well with them?
  4. Feel they would be supportive of your aims?
  5. Find them easy to communicate with?
  6. Believe they have the skill set to further your goals?

The internet is awash with people offering their skills as professional mentors. They tempt you by promising the secrets to earning a 6 figure income, providing you pay them thousands for the privilege.

If you’re only just starting your business, then you don’t need to be following these kinds of people, unless that is your immediate focus. Although they may provide inspiration and help you reach for the stars, if you don’t find the right person they may just as likely provide you with nothing and simply take your money.

To begin with, you really need someone who’s just a few steps ahead of you, a person who still remembers what it’s like to be in your shoes and can identify with your struggles.

What Will a Good Mentor do for You?

Whether your business is brand new or has been established for some time, a mentor is always a beneficial asset. They can be used as a sounding board and help you make critical judgements at important junctures.

When you’re completely immersed in the running of your business, you can easily lose sight of the big picture. A mentor will help you keep an eye on your long-term goals and help you find the right path to achieve them.

A good mentor will shine a light for you and be your guide. They will be there to hold your hand and stand beside you. They will push you when they see you need some extra motivation and will be able to see your full potential even if you can’t see it yourself. Finally, a good mentor will be there to help you achieve your dreams.

Difference Between a Coach and a Mentor

There is a lot of overlap between a coach and a mentor. A coach is usually someone who teaches you a specific skillset over a short period of time. While a mentor is someone who helps you learn in a more organic way over a longer period, enabling you to develop in many different areas.

So what are the main differences between a coach and a mentor?

A coach can provide you with training materials to develop a specific skillset. They may be able to give you some of the answers to specific questions in their area of expertise and will have relevant qualifications. Coaches are always paid for their services.

Whilst a mentor will have relevant experience and qualifications, they work in a way which encourages you to discover the answers yourself. Mentors may be paid or unpaid.

In order to thrive, we all need a little support, that’s why you it’s beneficial to have a mentor, someone who has your back when you’re struggling or even to just confirm you’re on the right track. The person you choose to provide this help could be a professional mentor, a trainer, a colleague, or simply a friend you already know. Whoever you choose, you’ll need to trust them and be able to turn to them whenever you need a boost.

Besides a mentor, a strong support network is also an invaluable asset, people we see as being our tribe. So today I’m asking you, who is in yours?

Personally, over the last 5 years, I’ve learned so much from other business and VA coaches and I felt it was time to give back. So now I’ve launched my own 3-month Mentoring Mastermind, especially for VAs who speak French.  Right now, we’re one month in and the support and growth we’re seeing is genuinely brilliant.

If this is something you’d be interested in too, I’ve some good news, there’ll be another opportunity to join me in May. For your chance to take part, send me a DM today and I’ll reserve your spot.