'Shark Tank' investor Robert Herjavec explains why having a mentor may not mean what you think

Robert herjavec‘Beyond the Tank’/ABCMentorship doesn’t have to mean meeting for coffee.

Everybody wants a mentor. “Find a mentor,” everyone says. “You need a mentor.” “You can’t get anywhere without a mentor.” And there’s truth to that. Let it be uncontroversially said: having a go-to advisor is almost always better than not having a go-to advisor.

But a much-beloved champion and advisor you have coffee with every third Wednesday is not the only kind of mentor there is, and as Shark Tank “shark” and entrepreneur Robert Herjavec argues in a recent LinkedIn post, guidance and championship comes in many forms.

“When I consider mentorship, I see it as a series of moments with key individuals over the course of my career,” Herjavec writes. “Have I always had one individual guide me along the way? No, that wasn’t my experience.”

Instead of a single, formal relationship — the seeming gold standard of mentorship — Herjavec recalls a roster of people who have “offered advice or a sounding board along the way.” And those people are mentors, too, even if they’re not standing coffee dates.

He cites his “unofficial” mentor, Warren Avis, founder of Avis Rent a Car, as evidence. Avis was, he says, “the first person to tell me that I was way (and I mean WAY) off base in my approach to sales, and I’ve never forgotten that lesson,” Herjavec recalls in the post. His approach wasn’t scalable, Avis advised, pointing out the hot dog vendor outside their office. He was acting like that hot dog vendor, Avis told him, and to grow, he was going to need to change tactics. “You need be the guy supplying the dogs to all the vendors if you ever want to scale,” Avis said.

And yet Avis wasn’t his “mentor” in any formal sense of the term. “Did we meet every second Tuesday over coffee to catch up and review my personal and corporate goals? Certain not,” Herjavec writes. And yet Avis was undeniably a source of wisdom and guidance, and he was only a phone call away.

Over the course of a career, there will be many Avises, or there can be, if you’re open to them — and these “mentorship moments” can be just as valuable to your career as more formal relationships. “Stop with the ‘will you be my mentor?’ emails,” he urges, and “start being present to embrace the learning opportunities all around you.”

Read the full LinkedIn post here.

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