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For many entrepreneurs, few things are more rewarding than building a board of high-profile advisors. The benefits are obvious: advisors can bring valuable knowledge and contacts to a company, and help the entrepreneur build his or her business.
But for entrepreneurs (and those looking to create a promising career path), it's worth remembering that finding a mentor can be just as important -- if not more important. Here are six reasons why.
Somebody has walked a mile in your shoes before
There's a good chance that when you find yourself facing a new challenge, or in a situation you've never been in before, somebody else out there has dealt with a similar challenge or situation.
In an ideal world, that person might be an advisor who can share his or her experience, helping you see options you hadn't thought of, or providing moral support for whatever decision you decide to make.
Honest feedback is hard to come by
Obtaining honest feedback on business and professional matters is often more difficult than one might think. Friends and family can be too positive, or negative. Colleagues may be conflicted, or want to avoid saying something that could harm their relationship with you.
More trusted consigliere than friend or colleague, a mentor has the luxury of being honest with you when you call on him or her because the bulk of the relationship is based on the provision of advice.
A mentor can inspire
Just because a mentor isn't exactly a 'friend' doesn't mean that a mentor is limited to providing cold, detached advice. Mentors are often successful, accomplished individuals who like giving back.
The stories they share with you won't simply provide lessons that will help see things from a different angle or make better decisions, they can often inspire you. Whether you're starting a business or trying to build a career, this kind of inspiration can be invaluable.
A mentor cares more about you than your current job or business
Many entrepreneurs take pride in recruiting advisors to help provide feedback and guidance on their businesses. And to be sure, advisors often provide plenty of value. But many times, advisors are chosen because of what they might bring to the business -- not the entrepreneur.
A mentor, on the other hand, is somebody who cares about you. Whether you start a new business, or move to a different job, your mentor goes with you. Your company's advisor may not.
Your mentor's advice is free
A mentor relationship isn't based on equity in a business, payments for attending board meetings, or any other form of compensation that relates in any way to money. True mentors are looking for something money can't provide, and this fosters a relationship based solely on mutual respect.
When speaking to your mentor, you don't have to worry that he or she is trying to take a piece of what you're building, or promoting interests that might be counter to your own. Your mentor is invested in your success and happiness -- nothing less, nothing more.
Being a mentee will help you become a better mentor
One of the great things about a mentor-mentee relationship is that it typically evolves into a two-way interaction in which the mentee provides just as much value to the mentor as the mentor does to the mentee. In the end, someone who has been a mentee is better prepared to one day become a mentor, continuing one of the business world's most virtuous cycles.