Mentoring Entrepreneurial Networks: mapping conceptions of participants in technological-based business incubators in Brazil

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Entrepreneurial Career

New career fields are being developed, mostly as a result of the development of new information technologies. These fields lack definitions and specifications of terms used. The traditional career, in average and big size companies, has been more and more substituted due to other types of relationships between capital and work, generating new career field, for example, the “entrepreneurial career” (Mayrhofer et al., 2002).

A theory on career development is evolving almost exclusively in the organizational context, seeking to understand conflicts and challenges that people face when they assume corporate hierarchical roles. Since incubated entrepreneurs begin their career with the command of the organization, the approach on corporate careers looses its reference in this context.

On the other hand, researchers on entrepreneurship have studied the factors that motivate people to initiate their own business. Historically, a study of entrepreneurship has strived to articulate individual factors what influence people to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure. (Sexton & Bowman, 1984). Due to the emphasis on the factors that influence someone to initiate a business, given by researchers on entrepreneurship, little effort has been given to understand how these people develop different roles along their careers. The study of entrepreneurship appears to be imprisoned to its end results, that is, a new business was opened and the performance was positive or negative. Researchers have given strong emphasis to the areas in which a career possesses well defined steps, based on roles, socialization and entrepreneurial practices (Dyer Jr., 1994).

While some theories on career development see a career as only in terms of a job that someone performs, (Arthur; Hall & Lawrence, 1989), an entrepreneurial career is greatly influenced by what is occurring, for example, in personal and family environments of a specific person. (Dyer Jr., 1994). Schein (1978) considers a career to be a social anchor point from which a person goes through life, promoting interactions between work and family and with his personal life in general. This type of approach to career development provides the broader context that is necessary in order to study entrepreneurial career development.

Studies have pointed out the gaps left by the results that try to associate personal traits to entrepreneurial behavior (e.g. Gartner, 1988). Some authors have noted that attitude measures may be more predictive of entrepreneurial behavior than psychological traits (Robinson et al., 1991). Other authors suggest that the cognitive structuring and processes are significant factors in career choice (Shaver & Scott, 1991).

With regards to the support necessary for entrepreneurial career development, recent advances in research on mentoring show evidence that mentoring processes do take place in incubator environments. These processes occur principally through mentor diversity and by means of informal networks of development (Regis, 2005).

The analysis of social networks constructed by new entrepreneurs is more of a tool for the comprehension of how entrepreneurs connect information and resources to help in their career development. After explaining the theoretical bases in which the entrepreneurial career is involved, the following section presents the variables that make up the mentoring function.

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