How to find a mentor
What are the chances of your startup thriving? According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) research, 30% of startups are closed during their first 2 years. 50% of them are closed during their first 5 years. 70% of mentored businesses work successfully for more than 5 years.*
This proves that having a mentor can be vital, and not only for businesses. Whether you want to quickly acquire the right skills or easily pass a job interview, a mentor will help you do it without investing too much time and energy.
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Mentorship is a process where a more knowledgeable and experienced person helps a less knowledgeable and experienced person reach his or her goals. In addition, a good mentor determines your strengths and weaknesses, inspires you, broadens your horizons, introduces you to the right people, and most importantly, does not judge you. On the contrary, a mentor challenges you to make mistakes, experiment, ask questions, and not to be afraid of failures.
It should also be noted that a mentor is not necessarily one person, there can be 2, 3 or more of them. It all depends on the goals you set for yourself.
So, how can you find mentors and build relationships with them? Here are some tips.
1. Choose mentors whose results you want to repeat
If your goal is to start your own business, then find someone who has already started it. You don’t need a keynote speaker or a famous author as a mentor if they don’t have the results that you need. Therefore, before searching for a mentor, clearly define your goals and make sure that your potential mentors have already achieved them.
2. Find “virtual” mentors
Do you want Elon Musk or Bill Gates as mentors? Do not rush to send them emails with this request. To begin with, you can explore all the open sources associated with their names: books, articles, interviews, etc. Of course, it will not be equivalent to live communication, but through their products, you can also learn a lot of useful things.
Suppose you are up for live mentorship only, and not virtual. In that case, you don’t have to choose a mentor from “the best of the best”, a person from the Forbes list, etc. You just need to find someone who is one or two levels higher than you, someone who has already traveled your way and knows perfectly what to do and how to reach the goals you have set for yourself.
3. Look closely at your immediate network
Sometimes your mentor stands by you all your life, and you just don’t notice that. So look carefully. Maybe he or she is among your relatives, friends or neighbors. The main thing, again, is to determine in what area you need help and what exactly you want from your mentor.
4. Think in advance what you are going to say to the mentor
The worst way to start a conversation with a mentor is saying something like: “I’ve been thinking… Will you be my mentor?” First, it is vague, and second, the scale of the request is really frightening. Instead, try to do the following. For example, you need help with organizing an event. In this case, it’s better to say to a potential mentor something like: “I was very impressed by your recent post on Facebook about the event you organized. Can I invite you for a cup of coffee and ask you more about it?”
If the mentor is not in your network yet, it will take a little more time to build your relationship with him. If you want to learn how to do it, I suggest reading my article “From Acquaintance to Partnership. 6 Levels of the Networking Funnel”.
5. Don’t forget about different formats of mentorship
A mentor is not only someone who meets with you regularly and offers recommendations. It can be someone who occasionally answers your questions via Skype or email. Even books are full-fledged mentors. The main thing is that you do not just absorb the information obtained from different sources, but also put it into practice.
6. Attend events, especially those with many networking opportunities
A great way to find a mentor is to meet him or her at a specialized event. Conferences, forums, trade shows, panel discussions, etc. are all excellent platforms for networking. The best way to get a person interested in you is to give them a chance to talk about themselves. So listen carefully, ask questions, make sincere compliments. This lays the foundation for further relationships. If you find a person interesting, ask for their business card and do not forget to follow up with them during the next 48 hours.
By the way, at the events where my company MeetPartners participates, we always set up our main networking tool: the Connecting Wall. It’s a stand where you can attach your business card at the section you are interested in. One of them is called “Looking for a mentor.” So, if you get a chance to attend any of our events, make sure you leave your card at the Connecting Wall.
7. Be persistent, but not too much
If you have chosen a mentor, asked them for help and they turned you down, it is worth giving it another shot but don’t besiege the person for years. Most likely, you went to a wrong person or used a wrong approach. Just try a different approach and keep looking elsewhere.
8. Try to bring value to your mentor
Mentorship is not a one-way street. So do not constantly bombard your mentor with requests. Better think about what YOU can do for him or her. Many people start searching for a mentor with a wrong idea in mind: “I’ll find a mentor and he will make me successful”. As a matter of fact, the correlation is quite the opposite: “I will become successful and it will help me find a mentor”.
You can’t make your mentor interested in you if you don’t stand out from the crowd. So, instead of asking for something right away, show them how up-and-coming you are, offer help, become a volunteer in their project, etc.
9. Let the mentor know about your progress
The major appreciation for a mentor is your results. Therefore, be sure to tell them what recommendations you have implemented and what results you have achieved. Saying “Thanks for your help” doesn’t sound as strong as “Thank you for the advice on the sales team optimization. With your help, we have increased the number of orders by 30%.”
Finding a mentor can hardly happen in an instant. In some ways, it is like looking for an investor, a strategic partner or an ideal client. It requires a lot of preliminary work, active networking and attempts. If you want to find a mentor and build the relationship with them quickly, start with these tips:
- Choose mentors whose results you want to repeat
- Find “virtual” mentors
- Look closely at your immediate network
- Think in advance what you are going to say to the mentor
- Don’t forget about different formats of mentorship
- Attend events, especially those with many networking opportunities
- Be persistent, but not too much
- Try to bring value to your mentor
- Let the mentor know about your progress