Being a wedding pro requires you to become someone who knows a little about a lot of things. From business operations and finances to marketing and customer service, running a business in the wedding industry can make you feel like you’re in constant search of the “right” answer. But, unless you are one of the few who happens to have studied hospitality and then went on to get an MBA, that search for answers—heck, even the right direction—can be overwhelming and have you wearing out the keys on your keyboard. According to the WeddingWire 2019 Small Business Study, 70% of pros reported that they rely on their social network for informational support including advice, sharing tips and tools of trade. So today, we wanted to get you out of Googling everything and thinking about finding a mentor to guide you on your wedding business journey. Keep reading for our advice on why you should think about finding a mentor, how to ask someone to be yours as well as how to be a good student.
What is a mentor?
Whether you have had a mentor in the past or not, knowing exactly what a mentor is and what they do can still be in that grey area. Sure, they are someone who offers advice—but do they have to do the same work as you? Does it have to be a formal relationship? Even Google gives you a vague answer. So, before we dive in, let’s all get on the same page about what a mentor is!
A mentor is a professional peer or colleague who offers advice and resources to another in order to help them grow or achieve a goal. And, while having a mentor can be a formal relationship, sometimes people are mentored by others informally (or unintentionally). Because, in the end, a mentor is someone who helps you solve problems with no expectation of anything in return. A mentor also is someone who:
- Shares lessons they’ve learned
- Offers encouragement
- Creates accountability
- Will provide honest feedback and advice
- Helps someone gain leadership skills
- Coaches someone through challenges
- Helps expand someone’s network
Sound a little like the business coach you worked with and wondering what the difference between them and a mentor? Even though they might do similar things, the biggest difference is that a business coach is paid for their time and service while a mentor is not.
What to look for in a mentor
Professionals and business owners can find themselves seeking mentorship at any point in their career but, oftentimes, mentorship can be incredibly helpful during a time of growth or transition. So, if you are wanting to scale or pivot your business—finding a mentor might be for you! But, what exactly, should you be looking for? While there is no formal list of criteria, here are a few things to consider when looking for a mentor:
- Depending on what your goals are, figure out if you are looking for a mentor with similar or opposing skills. For example, if you are strong on the creative side of things and want to increase your business acumen, look for someone who is more your business opposite than twin
- Don’t assume that the best mentor for you is older. They key here is to find someone with more experience and that isn’t always equal to their number of years on this planet
- Any mentor should be someone that you look up to, so just because they have the experience and skills doesn’t mean they are the right fit for you
How to find a mentor
Once you’ve spent some time reflecting on what qualities and expertise you are looking for in a mentor, it’s time to find one. Start by looking at your immediate network. Is there anyone in particular you admire who might be able to guide you towards growth? Finding someone you already have an established relationship with is ideal since they have more insight into your goals, how you work, your business and personality but, if you need to expand your search, look to any mastermind or online groups you are a part of. And, if you need to expand further, don’t be afraid to start asking for connections.
How to ask
When you’ve connected with a potential mentor, hit the pause button before getting down on one knee! Agreeing to be someone’s mentor is not something to take lightly since there is a lot of responsibility (on both sides). Start by doing a bit of a goal setting session to make sure that you can easily communicate what is is you are hoping to gain and then draft an email that includes:
- An opening that talks about where you are at, what your goals are, and why you have them
- Your thoughts about what you think you need to learn in order to achieve them
- A paragraph that is about what you have learned from them in the past to set the stage for the ask you are about to make
- A clear and concise statement about what you think you can learn from them in the future
- Information about any value that you can provide them
- An out that removes any pressure and reassures them that this is a voluntary option
- A sincere thank you for even considering being your mentor
How to be a good mentee
When you find and get a YES from your new mentor, it is important to know that part of the reason they agreed is likely because they enjoy the process (read: this fills an emotional bucket for them). So, as you work with and learn from your mentor be sure to give them what they are wanting—an engaged and enthusiastic student. And, you can do that by:
- Being open to positive and constructive feedback
- Always doing what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it
- Not encroaching on boundaries or pushing out the scope of your relationship (i.e. going past an agreed upon end date, texting when they prefer email or calling them on the weekends)
- Not expecting them to solve all of your problems and/or teach you everything. If that is what you are looking for, it’s time to formally invest in your education!
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