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Luke Williams is the executive director of NYU Stern's Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and a clinical associate professor of marketing and innovation.
Williams claims to have gone through five significant career changes, all aided by mentors who taught him skills he couldn't have acquired in college or on the job.
“Behind each, there has been one person — one mentor — who has taken a chance on me and guided me to the next level,” he explained.
Mentoring, according to experts, can have a significant influence on organizations of all sizes, and it's an area where more and more companies are investing.
“Mentoring can make a big impact, especially in these difficult times of downsizing,” says Lois Zachary, president of Leadership Development Services, an Arizona-based corporate coaching organization and author of three books on mentoring. “It is now more crucial than ever. Relationships are crucial because they provide a secure environment in which to process what is happening. In addition, mentoring may assist organizations in retaining valued employees by assisting them in growing to fulfill the expectations of the current economy.”
Zachary suggests establishing a list of goals and requirements before looking for a mentor. “The best thing to do is figure out what you want to learn and what you want to find. It's not about chemistry; it's about finding the right learning fit.”
According to Zachary, people should start with family and friends and individuals in their extended network and business, but they should also consider total strangers.
“The majority of individuals are looking for great mentors in their industry. Find someone entirely different, somewhere you would never think to search, to disturb that way of thinking. “That individual will not only confirm your knowledge but will also push you to perceive things in new ways,” Williams added. It's also vital to be mentored by someone older. When a mentor is found, Williams suggests that an indirect approach may be useful.
Zachary recommends setting up informational interviews with prospective mentors.
In the end, Williams believes that mentees must embrace learning. “You’ve to be prepared to value learning above all,” he said.
To know how to select a business mentor, read here.