Mentors are the most valuable resources you can tap into when it comes to growing your career.
When I was first starting out, I sought out the wisdom of mentors. I was only 22 when I started my first business and was still in college. One of my first advisors was my college business professor. He encouraged me to open my original business after grading a final paper – a business plan for mobile dog grooming. I left college in 1983 before earning my degree to start Four Paws Mobile Grooming.
The business grew so rapidly, I had six mobile grooming units within five years. I knew needed help growing my business while expanding my own skills.
How did I do it? Through mentoring and coaching.
In the early 80’s I learned about voluntary certification testing for pet groomers. I went to clinics, attended workshops, went to trade shows (not that there were many!), and networked with the visionaries of that time. Ultimately, I formed close mentoring relationships with several of them.
I was introduced to the AKC conformation dog show world. I networked with breeders and handlers who taught me about structure, movement, coat maintenance, and advanced grooming skills.
In exchange for their wisdom, I did whatever I could to help THEM. I helped breeders and handlers with dog maintenance, conditioning, and grooming. I did whatever I could to assist visionaries with their projects. I paid my dues with business groups, attending meetings and listening closely to speakers. Every experience helped me grow and improved my business.
With a good mentor, you are learning from someone who is already where you want to be. They know exactly what it takes to get there and can lead you through that uncertainty.
The internet has changed the learning landscape. There are now a wider variety of mentoring options. Some are free or inexpensive thanks to today’s technology. Many of them self-guided. Others follow outlines or structured programs. Still others utilize social media as a form of networking and sharing ideas.
Here are 9 ways to learn from others who have already walked the walk.
- Blogs and Podcasts. Information is just a few keystrokes away. The beauty of blogs and podcasts is that they are free. Are you taking advantage of them?
- Books are indispensable. Pick a topic – any topic. You will find so many books that will provide clarity that may be just a download away.
- Training Programs. Training programs can be hands-on or online. More are added every day.
- Facebook Groups. Facebook groups offer an amazing community of inspiration. Many of them offer free mentoring on specific topics.
- Study Groups. We think of these more in high school and in college but they are still valuable as you grow your career. Hosting a monthly local study group is a great way to network with other pet professionals in a relaxed and casual setting.
- Clinics and Workshops. These are typically smaller, more intimate lectures/demonstrations led by a top field professional. Grooming clinics and workshops can generally be found in larger communities.
- Membership Sites. There are amazing subscription-based sites hosted by industry leaders. A wide array of topics include business, finance, marketing, social media, leadership, grooming, and much more.
- Coaches and Consultants. Professional coaches earn their living by helping others succeed. A talented consultant can kick start your career by providing the motivation and inspiration you need to keep moving ahead.
- Personal Mentors. Finding a personal mentor can be quite challenging. Potential candidates at the height of their careers have huge demands on their time. For most of them, taking on mentees outside of their own personal network is not easily possible. Some may make exceptions for the right person.
Your need for fresh mentors always changes. Skill sets will grow. You will gain knowledge as you apply yourself. Experience is a priceless tool. Experience can’t be bought – it can only be earned or shared. Talented mentors will share their knowledge with you. Always remember to appreciate the mentoring opportunities created for you. Your success will be a product of that knowledge and experience.
Melissa Verplank, CMG