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As a business leader, one of the more rewarding things you can take on is being a mentor to a student or young professional who aspires to success in the business world. This is a great opportunity to pay it forward and to have an influence in shaping the leaders of tomorrow.
If you had a mentor yourself, you may think back and remember things they did that you appreciated. You might perhaps recall other approaches they took that were less successful. Even if you didn’t have someone who formally assumed this position, you almost certainly got help from others along the way.
However, in addition to thinking about what did and didn’t work for you in the past, it can be helpful to consider how you will approach being a mentor in a more organized fashion.
Being a Mentor Includes Small and Large Gestures
Being a business mentor is mostly about helping and encouraging someone by sharing your own experience with them. You don’t have to make grand gestures in order to help someone or even change their life. However, there are situations in which you might want to take that extra step.
For example, you might choose to help a student obtain a loan to pay for their education or assisting with a refinance. However, be sure to put a few elements in place before you do this.
First, of course, the student should be someone who is genuinely in need of this kind of help. In most cases, helping a student obtain funding for their education is a role that’s more appropriate for a family member. However, some families may not be in a position to assist financially.
Next, the student needs to fully understand the gravity of what you are doing. They also need to accept their responsibility in paying back the loan. You need to understand this as well, including whether this will affect your credit score.
Finally, you need to be prepared to repay the loan yourself if necessary.
Of course, this is not the ideal outcome for you as a business mentor. But as a cosigner, you can never guarantee that the person you’re signing for will be able to keep up their obligations.
Regardless, cosigning on a student loan can make a real difference for a student. In some cases this will allow them to obtain the loan in the first place. This can also keep their interest rate lower.
Another option is a student loan refinance with cosigner. If the person already has a student loan but the repayment terms could be better, you could help them get those improved terms.
Learn to Be a Good Listener
One of the most important things you’ll do as a business mentor is listen to your mentee. You need to be able to listen critically so that you can offer advice. Nonetheless, you must give that advice without judgment.
One of the most important reasons for this listening is that you need to understand your mentee. Find out where they are coming from, what their goals are, and what challenges they are facing. You also need to understand what they are looking for in a mentoring relationship. Along with active listening, you need to cultivate empathy for their situation even if it’s quite different from your own.
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It can be tempting as a business mentor to charge in with advice from the very beginning. But while offering constructive criticism is important, before you can really do that, you need to get a good sense of who your mentee is and what they’re after.
In addition, constructive criticism isn’t always the right response. Careful listening will help you identify when it is. At other times, asking questions to either better understand where the other person is coming from or to help formulate a plan to get past an obstacle is the best approach.
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Being a Business Mentor Sometimes Means Giving Constructive Criticism
One of the difficult aspects of being a business mentor is finding a middle ground between trying to steer your mentee’s development in a certain direction and sitting back while they make a big mistake, or at least what looks like one to you. You need to put some distance between yourself and your ideas about their outcome. But that doesn’t mean constructive criticism is verboten. Instead, think of a way to present your thoughts in a diplomatic fashion.
One excellent way to approach this is by simply talking about a similar experience that you had and what you did. This allows you to offer an option without coming across as telling the other person what to do. Keep in mind that your primary role is to help the other person. They aren’t going to get things right sometimes, and that’s okay. You need to be supportive in either circumstance and offer resources that can help them in any decision that they make.
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