Building a Network: Mentorship and Connections for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

startups in maryland in a coworking space working with a mentor.

It’s unclear what the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” means. This statement implies that Howard County networking can help your new or existing business. It’s well known that the people you spend time with can ultimately affect and define how successful or unsuccessful you will be in reaching your goals. On the other hand, it might be hard to figure out how to interact with people in your network, especially those you see as teachers.

Although mentors can be just as helpful for your personal and professional growth as therapists, executive coaches, or startup advisors, they’re different because the relationship between you and your mentor isn’t always transactional. This means you don’t have to follow any rules or obligations with your mentor.

Identify Potential Mentors

Finding possible mentors and advisors is an important part of a Howard County startup. Find people with experience and knowledge in the areas that interest you or your business. Find people who have been successful as entrepreneurs and are ready to share what they know. You could meet possible mentors by attending events, conferences, and networking platforms in your field.

Entrepreneurs can use online platforms and groups to connect with business owners who have been in your shoes before and can help you along the way. Remember that getting the right teachers and advisors can help you as you deal with the challenges of being an entrepreneur.

Mentorship is an important part of what we believe here at the Maryland Innovation Center because it helps you move forward. We believe in your ability to change the market, so we ask you the tough questions and give you the tools you need to succeed. We’re entrepreneurs, business leaders, and thinkers on paper. In real life, we’re advisors who listen sincerely and show others how to do the same. These committed, experienced professionals are willing to help Howard County business owners for free for up to six hours as part of the BRITE program.

startups in maryland working in a coworking space with a mentor

What You Want in a Mentor

Why do you need a mentor in the first place? What do you want to accomplish with the help of a mentor? How do you and your mentor plan to reach your goal?

Know what you want to learn before you start searching through the mentors available at the Maryland Innovation Center. Each mentor here has different things to offer. Some might be better suited to help you advance in your career; others can help you start a new business, and more.

Find out where the people who know about this are and go there. You can meet people who might have the knowledge you’re looking for by joining meetup groups and going to events in your field. Look for people who stand out to you at these events. Get in touch with the people you like in your field. The goal is to find people whose work you admire and want to copy.

Approaching Mentors

Experts say that before you approach any possible mentors, you should ask them for an informational interview. The best way to set up an informational interview is to have somebody you and your potential mentor already know set things up for you. Let them introduce you and say why you want to talk to the potential mentor. If you don’t know anyone who knows your possible mentor, you can still reach out to them and tell them who you are and why you want to talk.

These tips will help you make sure your informational interview goes well once you’ve set it up.

  • Prepare yourself: You should show that you’ve done your research when you call a possible mentor. Do not ask simple questions like “Where did you go to school?” Go further.
  • Do not waste their time: A 20- to 30-minute informational talk is normal. Just check in if you want to keep talking.
  • Make it clear that you want to reciprocate: A possible mentee had one of the best conversations with their mentor, which only took 15 minutes. “How can I help you?” was his third question.
  • Make the interview into a mentoring partnership. Set up a follow-up at the end of the interview goes well.

Building Relationships with Mentors

Both mentors and mentees share the rewards and duties of mentoring. The best mentorships are where both people get something out of the relationship. When someone asks for advice, a mentor gives them direction and new ideas, which makes the mentor happy and gives the mentee the benefit of advice from someone with more experience.

People often believe mentoring is meant to help the mentees or up-and-coming people. But, here at Maryland Innovation Center, we know that’s not the case, as it also helps the mentor. As a mentor, you learn to understand other people better. It helps you remember things and keep your skills sharp. People who are already successful and don’t start mentoring others will lose touch with how great they are over time. Mentoring someone brings you back to the great person you were before you became so good.

One important thing to know about mentors is that they can’t run your life for you. They’re there to give you advice, a different point of view, and make you think differently, not to make choices for you. You don’t have to always take advice but should always consider it. One of the mentor’s jobs is to make you think, not to give you answers or advice. Being a mentor means helping you ask the right questions.

Final Thoughts

Both mentors and mentees share the rewards and duties of mentoring. The best mentorships are where both people get something out of the friendship. When someone asks for advice, a mentor gives them direction and new ideas, which makes the mentor happy and gives the mentee the benefit of advice from someone with more experience.

People often believe mentoring is meant to help the mentees or up-and-coming people. But being a mentor also helps the mentor. As a mentor, you learn to understand other people better. It helps you remember things and keep your skills sharp. People who are already successful and don’t start mentoring others will lose touch with how great they are over time. Guiding someone rekindles the qualities that made you exceptional before you achieved greatness.

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