Mentor Perspectives: How Mentoring Helps Mentors

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[vc_row padding_top=”0px” padding_bottom=”0px”][vc_column fade_animation_offset=”45px” width=”1/1″][text_output]Like most accelerators, the Iowa Startup Accelerator is mentor driven. A strong mentor network is the linchpin in a successful accelerator because it provides the bulk of the actionable information for the teams.

This year, the ISA mentor network grew to include over 160 mentors in many different fields.

Our mentors aren’t compensated monetarily because we want mentors that are aligned for the right reasons, not personal gain. We can get far better volunteer mentors than we could ever get by paying for them. There are incredible people who will happily donate their time to causes they believe in but would never sell their time to a cause they didn’t.

Our mentors aren’t giving their time and energy with nothing in return, however.  At the ISA, we firmly believe that mentoring is a two-way street. Our mentors bring industry expertise, connections, and experience, but when we asked some of our mentors, they said they receive:

1. Energy
Early stage startups have an innate sense of fearlessness. Everything they do is uncharted territory, so these entrepreneurs become experts on taking risks in order to thrive. Their level of energy is contagious – it’s hard to feel uninspired after working with them.

[/text_output][blockquote cite=”” id=”” class=”” style=””]“After spending 90 minutes with the teams, I could not believe how quick those 90 minutes went. It was as much fun as I have had in a long time in a business setting because of all the energy and passion in the room.”

ISA Mentor Lon Olejniczak, Global Head of Talent Development at Aegon[/blockquote][text_output]2. Perspective
Mentoring early stage startups forces mentors to remember what starting out fresh feels like. A lot of mentoring is sharing experiences and offering insight. By doing so, mentors get to take the time to reflect on their own entrepreneurial journey. Reflection on past experiences can lead to increased productivity with similar situations in the future.[/text_output][blockquote cite=”” id=”” class=”” style=””]“Telling your story to other people helps you realize what you’ve done.”

ISA Mentor Alec Whitters, Founder, and CEO of Higher Learning Technologies[/blockquote][text_output]3. New Industry Insight
Many early stage startups are at the front of innovation for their industries. Working with these teams automatically exposes mentors to new industries. It directly connects mentors to the latest thinking in both new and existing industries.[/text_output][blockquote cite=”” id=”” class=”” style=””]“Mentoring lets me learn which industries are begging for new innovations. The teams are the industry experts – I get to learn from them. It’s really fun.”

ISA Mentor-in-Residence Levi Bostian, Mobile App Specialist[/blockquote][text_output]4. The Opportunity to Give Back
Many mentors list this as one of the primary reasons that they get involved with mentoring. Mentoring engages mentors with the entrepreneurial ecosystem. It lets them give back to the communities that helped them get where they are today. Alec Whitters says that at its core, doing this simply makes him happy.

Giving back to the ecosystem doesn’t just feel good – it also builds a better chance of success for everyone involved. Mentoring new startups helps to grow the community, attracting more business and building stronger networks for all.[/text_output][blockquote cite=”” id=”” class=”” style=””]“You don’t get to where you are in your career alone. We are continually the sum of our experiences. You have the responsibility to give back and help the cycle.”

ISA Mentor-in-Residence Lisa Spellman,  Secretariat of ISO/TC215-AHIMA[/blockquote][line id=”” class=”” style=””][text_output]When asked what advice they would give to people new to mentoring, many of our mentors said, “Listen first.” Bad mentoring begins when mentors give advice before learning where teams are at. By listening first, mentors can make a better judgement of what advice is appropriate for the teams at the current moment.[/text_output][blockquote cite=”” id=”” class=”” style=””]“It’s okay to listen. You don’t have to throw your ideas and findings out right away. Get comfortable listening and asking questions. Don’t be afraid to ask if you’re on track with your mentees.”

ISA Mentor-in-Residence Lisa Spellman[/blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row]