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How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

Entrepreneurs are an eclectic bunch! Some have entrepreneurship thrust upon them by necessity, while others were born with a passion for it. But no matter how you get there, all entrepreneurs start out as novices when launching their first business.

Having a mentor at this stage in your career can mean the difference between success and failure over the long term. A 2012 survey found that entrepreneurs who received mentoring increasing their revenue by an average $47,000 a year.[1] And the American Psychological Association says that there are a host of benefits of mentorship including, career coaching, a larger and wider professional network and more job satisfaction for the entrepreneur.[2]

But how do you find a mentor, what should you look for and how do you ask someone to be a mentor? These are important questions to consider before you get into a mentoring relationship.

What is a Mentor?

Before we get into exactly how to find a mentor, it’s important to understand what a mentor is, as well as what a mentor is not.

A good working definition of a mentor for our purposes is

“Someone with experience in a field, occupation or business who is willing to share it with a less experienced person called a mentee”.

You may be reading this and thinking that this sounds a lot like a business coach. After all, a coach is someone who has experience and expertise in a field that is paid to share it with you. While the two roles are similar, there are a couple of important differences.

First of all, the mentoring relationship is rarely a paid one while hiring a coach or consultant is.

Secondly, hiring a business coach is a more formal relationship with a clearly defined project and a finite time frame. A mentor/mentee relationship is more informal and can last for years.

Finally, when you hire a coach, you can expect them to give you specific advice to solve a specific problem. A mentor acts more as a sounding board for problems, so that you can work them out yourself.

Benefits of a Mentor-Mentee Relationship

The obvious benefit of having a mentor/mentee relationship is the mentor’s experience in the field. For someone just starting out this is invaluable. All businesses have their unique quirks that are only known to the insiders.

For example, you may think that insurance companies make all their money off of the premiums that you pay. But did you know that the real money is made in the “float”?[3]

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The float is the time between when an insurance company gets your money and when they have to pay out your claim. The longer that period is, the more money is being made by the insurance company. And you wondered why they were so slow paying your claim!

It’s this kind of little known insider knowledge that makes having a mentor so valuable. Additionally, a mentor will offer objective advice, a unique perspective and encouragement.

But the biggest benefit of a mentoring relationship is experience. Experience is an asset just like any other asset albeit an expensive one to get. You can significantly cut your costs of acquiring experience with a good mentor.

How to Find a Mentor in 7 (Not So) Easy Steps

1. Prepare Yourself

As entrepreneurs, we are used to doing things by ourselves. We read articles and watch YouTube videos in order to tackle the unknown. And while this self motivation and problem solving strategy is what defines us, it’s a double edged sword.

A lot of times, we get tunnel vision about how things should work and how problems get solved. This rigidity can limit the options we see. It’s almost always better to give up on the idea of how things “should work” in theory and embrace the lessons of experience.

I learned this the hard way when I was designing a commission structure for my sales people. I had set it up so that they would get a percentage of each sale they made. It made sense to me. After all, the more they sold, the higher their commissions would be.

However, I soon discovered that while they were selling to the customers who were looking to buy, they weren’t going out of their way to make the sale happen.

I ended up talking about this with a friend who was a fellow business owner and he pointed out that I was relying exclusively on extrinsic motivation to generate sales, (commissions). We talked about ways to develop intrinsic motivation within the team as it’s a much better motivational technique than extrinsic motivation.

Long story short, not only did sales improve, but so did morale.

2. It’s About the Person More Than the Position

Ideally, you should find a mentor who is the idealized version of what you want to become. But there are some basic characteristics that you shouldn’t ignore when choosing a mentor.

The most important one is honesty and trustworthiness. It should go without saying, but I’ve seen too many people get burned because they were blinded by a person’s position instead of principles.

3. Make Yourself Attractive to Potential Mentors

People who are experts in their fields have a passion for it, and they are often on the lookout for people who share that passion. So your job is to show them that for you, it’s more than just a job or a way to make money. You share the same passion as they do.

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Unfortunately, this is not something that you can fake. The experts can spot a fake from the genuine article a mile away.

With that being said, you can make yourself stand out from the crowd by putting in extra effort, working late, contributing in meetings and taking on those jobs that others won’t. These are the things that mentors notice and even if you don’t share their passion for the work, putting in the extra effort will make you a more attractive candidate for mentorship.

4. Open Yourself up to All of the Possibilities

You can’t always pick out your own mentor. Sometimes, mentors pick you; be open to this possibility.

We see this a lot when people want mentors who are “too far up the food chain”. It’s common for young people just starting out to pick the CEO or President of the company to be a mentor. These people rarely have the time or inclination to mentor someone who may or may not be with the company in a year. Meanwhile, a manager or VP who has a vested interest in your success could be the perfect mentor fit (for now).

You also want to make sure that you are looking side to side for mentors, not just up. Sometimes, you can find a peer that is a rising star. Encourage and emulate that person. At the very least, you’ll develop some good networking opportunities down the road.

5. Choose Someone Close

While the advent of the internet has made long distance mentorship possible, it’s still not ideal. Your mentor should be someone who is fairly easy to reach and ideally someone close enough that you can have face to face meetings.

On a side note, whenever I meet with a mentor of mine, I alway pay. It doesn’t matter if it’s coffee or a meal out with their family, it’s my treat. Make sure your mentor-mentee relationship is a two way street.

6. Don’t Always Look for Someone like You

Good mentors come in all shapes and sizes. Our former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice put it this way:

“Search for role models you can look up to and people who take an interest in your career. But here’s an important warning: You don’t have to have mentors who look like you. Had I been waiting for a black, female Soviet specialist mentor, I would still be waiting. Most of my mentors have been old white men, because they were the ones who dominated my field.”

7. Make the Ask

Asking someone to be your mentor doesn’t have to be awkward, just ask your friend to hand them a note that says “Do you want to be my mentor? circle one. Yes, No, Maybe”. Okay that was a joke, but you will need to formalize the relationship so that expectations are clear.

The first thing you need to do is to be clear about what you are looking for in the mentor-mentee relationship. Only then should you make the ask. Then make sure your ask follows this formula:

  • Tell them what you admire about them.
  • Explain what your goals are for the mentoring process.
  • Suggest a logistical scenario.

Your conversation should go something like this,“Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, I was really impressed with how you handled the client/sale/business meeting (whatever). I would like to work on my skills in that area and was wondering if you’d be willing to mentor me? I don’t want to take up a lot of your time, but if we could do lunch once a week, maybe on Wednesday? Would you be open to that?”

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This is a direct, strait to the point conversation that gives the prospective mentor all the information they need to evaluate your request.

The Don’ts of a Mentor Relationship

So we’ve talked about what the mentor/mentee relationship is and even how you should go about getting a mentor. But there are some very specific don’ts that as a potential mentee, you should know about.

Don’t Ask Someone You’ve Never Had a Conversation With

Sure, the top person in your industry would probably be a great mentor, but unless you already have a relationship with them, it’s not going to work.

The mentor-mentee relationship is a personal one. This allows for the mentor to become vested in your success. You can not expect someone to have a vested interest in your success who doesn’t even know you.

Don’t Meet with Your Mentor If You’re Unprepared

A mentor’s time is valuable, don’t waste it with questions that you could and should figure out on your own.

A good rule of thumb is; “If you can Google it, then Google it, don’t ask your mentor.” Use the limited time you have with them wisely.

Don’t Just Take from a Mentor

As I stated earlier, whenever I meet with my mentors, I pay. This is an acknowledgement of the value the mentor brings to the relationship. Their knowledge and experience is worth more than any cup of Starbucks or family dinner that I pay for.

But even if you don’t or can’t pay, there is always something you can do to help out your mentor. The mentor-mentee relationship is a reciprocal one.

Don’t Make It Difficult to Meet

Make sure you are working around the mentor’s schedule and not yours. While this is a reciprocal relationship, the truth is, as the mentee, you’re getting most of the benefits from the relationship.

Besides, the more senior the mentor, the more demands they will have on their time.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Tough Questions

And by tough questions, I don’t mean “How do I design an employee benefits package?”

I mean “Where am I falling short?”, “What do I need to work on or improve?” or “What do you see as my biggest weakness?”

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Trust me, if you can ask these types of questions and be open to hearing the answers, it will help your business more than anything else.

Don’t Ignore Their Advice

One of the quickest ways to ruin a mentor-mentee relationship is to ask for advice and then ignore it. Now this doesn’t mean that you have to do everything that your mentor tells you to do. After all, it’s still your business or career. Just be selective about when and how you ask for advice.

For example, it’s better to say “I have a choice between scenario A and scenario B.” What do you think about the pros and cons of each?” rather than to say “I have a choice between scenario A and scenario B. Which one should I choose?”

In the first example, you’re using them as a sounding board for your decision, in the second example you are asking them to make a decision for your business.

When you ask them to make a decision for your business, out of all the possible outcomes, only one is positive. Your mentor makes the right decision for you. If the mentor makes the wrong decision, then you are unhappy. If the mentor makes the right decision and you don’t take their advice, the mentor is frustrated. If the mentor gives you the wrong advice and you ignore it, the value of the relationship is diminished.

The point here is to use the mentor’s knowledge and experience to guide you in your decisions, not to make the decisions for you.

Bottom Line

The value of a good mentor can not be overemphasized for the budding entrepreneur. The tricky part is knowing what to look for and how to find a mentor for your specific needs.

Mentors can be found almost anywhere, from friends and family to networking events, industry trade shows and even through social media with websites like LinkedIn. But wherever you find a mentor, make sure that it is someone who is trustworthy, with good communication skills who is willing to invest the time and effort involved in mentorship.

And always remember that the mentor/mentee relationship is a two way street so be sure to bring something of value to the mentor as well!

We hope you have enjoyed this article. If you did, please share it with friends and family on social media. It help us out and is greatly appreciated!

Featured photo credit: NESA by Makers via unsplash.com

Reference

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David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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Last Updated on November 24, 2020

50 LinkedIn Influencers To Follow, No Matter Your Industry

50 LinkedIn Influencers To Follow, No Matter Your Industry

LinkedIn is an excellent platform to network with great people to help you in your career and businesses. However, with over 575 million people on the site, who should you follow? This list will steer you to the right people to follow, organized by categories of expertise.

Job Search Experts

You will likely have several jobs throughout the course of your career, and you will constantly need advice on new trends and strategies out there in the job market. Here are the LinkedIn experts who you should follow on these matters.

1. Liz Ryan is the CEO and founder of Human Workplace. Her articles on job searching are filled with creative and colorful cartoons.

2. Lou Adler is the author of The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired.

3. Dr. Marla Gottschalk will help you make an impact in a new job.

4. Hannah Morgan runs CareerSherpa.net, where she gives expert advice on job searching and how to be more visible online.

5. Alison Doyle is the CEO and Founder of CareerToolBelt.com.

Management Experts

They say that people leave managers, not jobs. These experts in LinkedIn will help you become your employees’ dream manager.

6. Jeff Weiner. How can we leave out the CEO of LinkedIn himself?

7. Nozomi Morgan is an executive coach. She can help you transition from a boss to a true leader.

8. Mickey Mikitani is the CEO of Rakuten. He constantly shares his expertise in managing a global player in e-commerce platforms.

9. Andreas von der Heydt was the head of Amazon’s Kindle Content and now the Director of Talent Acquisition. He has extensive experience in management, branding, and marketing.

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Productivity Experts

By maximizing your productivity, you can win in all aspects of life. The following LinkedIn experts will help you win big in your career.

10. Gretchen Rubin is a happiness coach and the bestselling author of the The Happiness Project.

11. Carson Tate is the founder of Working Simply. She advises us to include play in our schedules.

12. Greg Mckeown is an essentialist. Part of being an essentialist is saying no to many things so that we can focus on the things that matter.

13. Brian de Haaff, CEO of Aha! Labs Inc. provides strategies on how to be productive and happy at work at the same time.

Marketing Experts

14. Sujan Patel is VP of Marketing at When I Work, an employee scheduling software. He is an expert in content marketing and he even shares his ideas on content marketing in 2020.

15. Megan Berry is the Head of Product Development at Rebelmouse, a content marketing and AlwaysOn powerhouse.

16. Sean Gardner will help you navigate the social media landscape. This includes how to use different platforms to help accelerate your career. He is also the bestselling author of The Road to Social Media Success.

17. Christel Quek is an digital and marketing expert. She is the VP of South East Asia at Brandwatch. Their products help businesses utilize social media data to make better business decisions.

18. Jeff Bullas is a digital marketing expert. His blog has over 4 million readers annually.

19. Michael Stelzer is the CEO and Founder of social media powerhouse site, Social Media Examiner.

20. If you’re looking for inbound and content marketing expertise, follow Dharmesh Shah, Founder and CTO of Hubspot.

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21. David Edelman is a McKinsey partner and is at the helm of the Digital Marketing Strategy Practice Department.

22. Dave Kerpen leads the social media software company Likeable Local. He is the author of Likeable Social Media: How to delight your customers.

23. Clara Shih is the CEO of Hearsay Social and the author of The Facebook Era.

24. Aaron Lee is Grand Master of Customer Delight at Post Planner. He is an excellent resource for everything social media.

25. David Sable is the CEO of Y&R, one of the largest advertising firms in the world.

26. Content marketing trumps traditional marketing these days, and who else better to lead you in this area than Joe Pulizzi, Founder of Content Marketing Institute.

Personal Branding Experts

Part of what we market in our personal career is our brand. When people hear your name, what kind of brand comes into their mind? What traits and qualities do they associate with you?

Here are some personal branding experts from LinkedIn to improve your own brand.

27. Dorie Clark is the author of Stand Out and Reinventing You. He can help you craft the professional image you’ve always wanted.

28. Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding. If you’re a millennial, Dan is the guy to help you craft your personal brand.

Other Notable Experts to Follow

29. Lisa Gates is the expert to follow if you’re negotiating for higher salaries and promotions.

30. If you’re a Baby Boomer, Marc Miller will help you navigate the continually changing landscape of the workplace.

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31. To avoid getting your resumé moved to the “No” pile, read Paul Freiberger’s excellent advice.

32. James Caan provides insightful ideas on careers in general. He is also a serial entrepreneur.

33. Jeff Haden writes on various topics, such as leadership and management. He is the owner of Blackbird Media.

34. If you’re looking for expert business advice on getting new customers and keeping them, follow Jay Baer.

35. Suzanne Lucas, aka Evil HR Lady, is a great human resources specialist.

36. If you need help in using Twitter to boost your career, Claire Diaz-Ortiz can guide you in the right direction.

37. Ryan Holmes is the CEO of Hootsuite, a social media management tool.

38. Customers are the lifeblood of a business and Colin Shaw focuses on revolutionizing this customer experience.

39. Brian Solis often reflects on the future of business and how technology can disrupt our world.

40. Nancy Lublin provides advice on more lighthearted topics, which are perfect after a long day’s work. She is the CEO behind Dosomething.org, a portal designed for social change; and the founder & CEO of Loris.ai and Crisis Text Line.

41. Katya Andresen provides advice on how to manage your career. She was the CEO of Cricket Media and now responsible for the SVP Card Customer Experience at Capital One.

42. Gallup has created a system to test what your strengths are and how to use them at work. Jim Clifton is the CEO of Gallup.

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43. Adam Grant is a Wharton Professor and the author of Give and Take, which provides advice on why being helpful at work can accelerate your career.

44. Hunter Walk is a partner at Homebrew Venture Capitalist Company and has specialty in product development and management.

45. If you’re running a nonprofit organization, follow Beth Kanter for expert advice on this area.

46. Emotional Intelligence is necessary to succeed in your career, and Daniel Goleman is your expert for that.

47. Rita J. King connects science, technology and business.

48. Tori Worthington Rose is a Creative Director at Mary Beth West Communications, LLC. She has extensive experience in sales and digital media.

49. If you’re looking for some advice on how to use writing and personal content marketing to boost your career, follow Ann Handley.

50. Tim Brown is the CEO at IDEO and shares his insights on Leadership and Creativity.

These are just some of the key thought leaders and movers in various industries. They will provide you with constant inspiration, as well as the willpower to pursue the career that you’ve always wanted. Their stream of expert ideas in their respective fields will help you become well-equipped in your professional pursuits.

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Featured photo credit: LinkedIn Sales Navigator via unsplash.com

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