8 Key Things to Look for in a Business Mentor

Wouldn’t life be so much easier if it came with an instruction manual telling us exactly what to do? Particularly when it comes to our business and careers, simply knowing the next step we should take would be incredibly valuable. If only we had some sort of a guide!

This is where having a business mentor becomes useful. A business mentor is someone who has already navigated your future career path or one very similar to it. They have experience in the trials and triumphs that are ahead of you and are willing to give you advice on how to best make your way. This is a long-lasting relationship with someone you respect and trust.

For example, serial entrepreneur Jo Burston attributes some of her success to her own business mentor. “My mentor of the past 10 years…helped me shape myself as a successful female entrepreneur,” she says. “I am totally fascinated by globally successful entrepreneurs and know that by emulating how they created their journeys I can craft my own,” she continues.

The Difference between a Business Mentor and a Business Coach

Business mentors are often confused with business coaches. However, the two are actually separate concepts. A business coach is generally goal-specific. You have an objective in mind and the coach is helping you get from Point A to Point B. As such, the relationship is often time or project bound. With a business coach you will likely have set objectives and your work with him or her will be more formal.

A business mentor, on the other hand, is someone with whom you will likely have a long and more informal relationship. He or she will see you through many business goals and career moves. Due to the close and ongoing nature of this relationship, it is essential to find the perfect match. Below are essential tips in terms of what to look for in a business mentor.

A Similar Path

You probably wouldn’t ask medical advice from your accountant, nor would you seek travel advice from someone who has never left your city. The same goes for business advice. In finding a business mentor, you want someone who actually has experience and knowledge in the fields in which you hope to succeed.

This doesn’t mean that they have the exact same jobs or business that you plan to have. But a good business mentor will have worked in more or less the same fields and succeeded in the same ways you hope to succeed. That way, they will be able to offer you invaluable advice for your specific career or business.

Successes…and Maybe Some Failures

If someone has consistently worked towards a goal but consistently not achieved it, then perhaps that person is not the best source of business advice on that particular goal. Obviously, if you want to know how to do something, you must ask someone who has succeeded in doing it. Make sure to choose a mentor who has succeeded where you hope to succeed, not simply someone who has been in business or in your career longer.

That said, no one is perfect and we learn best from our mistakes. The ideal mentor should also have some experience at failing. A balanced mentor will not only teach you how to reach your goals but will also more accurately warn you about the pitfalls ahead and show you how to deal with risks and failures (which anyone in business will almost certainly encounter at one point or another) and get back on your feet.


We aren’t all exactly the same. No matter how closely you match your mentor in terms of experiences, career or business goals, and behavior, your path will be at least somewhat different. As such, the ideal business mentor should have a strong sense of empathy to enable them to understand your individual experiences—especially in terms of career and business—and still provide valuable advice.

A Good Interpersonal Vibe

You know that date you went on with someone who just clearly doesn’t click with you? Perhaps you just can’t pinpoint why but you are very certain there is no way you could spend a future with this person. Finding the right business mentorship is a little bit like finding the right relationship. This should ideally be a long-lasting relationship. Your business mentor will support you through years—perhaps even decades—of career highs and lows. It is essential that this person should be someone with whom you can connect and with whom you feel very comfortable. You are building a trusted relationship.

Teaching Ability

Many people are extraordinarily skillful and brilliant in their chosen careers. However, when you ask them for advice, either they can’t give you good advice or they struggle with the act of imparting their knowledge. Perhaps it comes so easily to them that they don’t know how to begin explaining, or that their way of explaining is completely alien to you.

A good business mentor should not only be knowledgeable, he or she should also know how to teach and guide you through words and actions. Because, at the end of the day, you will get nowhere if your mentor doesn’t know how to impart to you the advice and insights you need to succeed, no matter how intelligent or successful he or she may be.

A Strong Network

So, you already have someone in mind who has the aforementioned qualities. Well and good, but it would be better still if that person also has a solid network that’s relevant and can be useful for your needs. A mentor who has a strong business network has more “material” to work with and more minds to consult, strengthening his or her efforts to give you the best possible advice. Not only that; the people in your mentor’s network can, in one way or another, be useful sources of key business and career insights and opportunities for you as well.

Maybe in time your mentor’s connections will be your connections, too.


Being accommodating is all well and fine among friends. However, your business mentor is not meant to be a friend. A mentor’s goal is to help you navigate your career path, face trials, make the right decisions along the way, and grow in the process.

So, much like a parent, he or she should be someone who is comfortable with giving you feedback, no matter how positive or negative it may be. If you ask for advice on a project or proposal, the ideal mentor does not simply give you blind praise, especially when it’s inappropriate or when you don’t need it. Instead, he or she should be honest and, in the case of negative feedback, should be able to communicate it to you in such a way that, instead of ruining your confidence, you’ll actually be more inspired and motivated to do better.

So where might you find the ideal business mentor? Strong candidates can be found in many places! Don’t limit yourself to your colleagues or those in your immediate circle—your perfect match might not even be in your current network.

If you are at a loss for where to find this mentor, or are not confident to approach the ideal mentor for you, we have an answer. At Behind Closed Doors we offer women peer to peer mentoring and one to one mentorship and essential advice to help you not only improve your business or your professional career but also to help you find the right mentor that will be with you as a key piece in your quest for business and/or professional success. For males, visit www.dwbottomline.com


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