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Elizabeth Welsh is an assistant professor in the Management Department at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.

Online: www.stthomas.edu/business/faculty/directory/Welsh_Elizabeth.html

Ask the consultant: How do I finding the right cast of mentors?

  • October 21, 2012 - 9:09 PM

Question

I am a director at Think First Consulting. The firm is a small business focused on providing enterprise architecture and information security consulting services to the federal government and commercial companies working with the government.

We have supported several Cabinet-level departments, including the Department of Labor, Department of Commerce and Homeland Security, including one of the initial cloud technology procurements in the federal government.

Here's my question: A mentor is often noted as a key to entrepreneurial success. What are the best resources for finding a mentor?

BRIAN GAY

BRIAN.GAY@THINKFC.COM

Answer

Mentoring is associated with many positive outcomes for protégés, but finding good mentoring can be tough. That said, you should be able to find what you need if you expand your definition of mentoring to include more than a single relationship with an experienced individual. And in addition to developing informal mentoring relationships, you should look for programs that match you with local and virtual mentors.

The first step in finding the right mentoring is to determine what you want to get out of the relationships. Do you need expertise working with the government or HR expertise or is it a work-life balance issue? Depending upon the answer, different mentors will be more or less helpful.

Once you figure out what you want to get out of the relationships, there are a number of options to consider. If peer mentors could help, you can join one of the many entrepreneurial groups that meet regularly to share experiences and expertise. If you need more experienced advice, you might consider a program like SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) that links working and retired executives with small-business owners, or St. Thomas' Small Business Development Center that provides free consulting. There are also virtual options, such as one recently launched by the Young Entrepreneur Council.

Realistically, you should explore a combination of these options, as you are looking for a set of mentors that fulfills your needs. Best of luck with your business.

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