Kristen Harris is the co-founder and COO of Portfolio Creative, a workforce innovation firm based in Columbus, Ohio, USA. As a member of the EO Columbus chapter, Kristen is an active participant in the EO Mentorship program.
I’ve been matched with seven amazing local mentors so far! I have also served as the chapter Mentorship Chair and on the Global Mentorship Subcommittee.
The benefits of mentorship
For me, the biggest benefits of having a mentor have been the ability to talk with people who have tremendous business experience—people I may never cross paths with otherwise—and learn from their outside perspective. The outside perspective supported with years of experience is so valuable!
There should be an inherent trust factor in this mentoring relationship, so I feel that I can talk to them about any issues or struggles I’m having. I always feel that my mentors have my best interest in mind, but are also not personally invested in the outcome so can they provide different and more balanced feedback.
“I learn a lot from every conversation, no matter which side of the table I’m on.”
When I mentor people, I have gained as much from the relationship as they might have. It gives me the opportunity to spend time talking about different industries, demographics and problems. I learn a lot from every conversation, no matter which side of the table I’m on.
How to find the right mentor
I generally judge my mentors on whether I like them: Do I want to spend time with them? Do I trust them? As long those things are in place, I know I’ll get something out of the relationship (and hopefully they do, too).
Other factors—like their industry, their location, their gender—don’t matter as much. None of my mentors have been in the same industry, or even related. Most business issues and experiences are universal; I find that the principles are the same and their insight applies no matter the industry.
I often see female business owners seeking a female mentor, and that’s great—there’s nothing wrong with it! It can be nice to talk to another woman who may have been in similar situations to you. But, based on my experience, I encourage people to be open to any mentor that’s a good fit, regardless of gender or industry.
With the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, mentors and mentees can connect easily through the virtual Mentorship Platform. Interested participants provide background information and are pre-screened to be sure they understand the requirements and expectations of the relationship. By the time mentors and mentees meet, they already know they are meeting a trustworthy person, so they can start digging in!
“Based on my experience, I encourage people to be open to any mentor that’s a good fit, regardless of gender or industry.”
If I was vetting a mentor further on my own, I’d want to know what their expectations and commitment are, and what they hope to gain from the relationship.
The secret to successful mentorship
Trust. There has to be complete and total trust so that I feel comfortable sharing my issues—the deeper the issue, the more I probably need help with it. And the mentor has to have trust in me, knowing that I won’t reveal confidential information they share with me as well.
Once there is trust established, then you can have really open and honest conversations and get the help or input you’re seeking.
If you aren’t connecting with your mentor or mentee or you don’t feel that trust, then it’s probably not the right partnership.