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Published on February 27, 2019

Advice for Entrepreneurs: How To Find A Mentor Worth Listening To

Advice for Entrepreneurs: How To Find A Mentor Worth Listening To

I was fortunate enough to have a number of great mentors who helped guide me and set me on the path to success when I was starting out in my career.

One of them, in particular, stands out because our relationship highlights a number of important points about finding the right mentor. We met after I spoke at a Rotary event and he decided to reach out to me. He was from Europe and his wife happened to be Swedish, as am I, so we were able to connect fairly quickly. Shortly after meeting him, I asked, “What can I do to help you?”

Now, this guy was incredibly successful. He had built two huge companies that he sold for millions. What he didn’t know how to do, however, was build a website. I did. So, I built him a website for free and told him he could just owe me one. It turned out his next door neighbor was a VP at Sony’s record label, and to “pay me back,” my mentor invited me to have a drink with his neighbor.

Next thing I knew, I was working on a project for Sony.

I’m not saying that you should automatically expect your mentor will connect you with someone important or give your career a major boost. But if you never put yourself out there and look for someone to have a mentor relationship with, you’re ensuring you’ll never have that opportunity.

Here’s how I’d recommend going about finding a mentor who will actually make an impact on your life:

1. Look for Someone Who Challenges You to Challenge Yourself

A great mentor doesn’t give you homework. They don’t sit you down, tell you exactly what you need to know and then send you off with some specific problems to solve. That’s more of a coach.

A mentor is someone who pushes you and opens up your perspectives. They help you perceive problems in new ways, so you can solve them on your own.

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Let’s say you have a difficult decision to make. A good mentor doesn’t necessarily say, “Do x, y, and z.” They tell you about a time they experienced something similar and what they learned from the situation. They talk about the different ways you could approach this decision.

The way I look at it, if I tell someone something, I could be wrong. So if I’m mentoring someone, my job is to help them realize what they want to do, or how they can go about doing it.

The best mentors make you think by offering a point of view you didn’t already have.

2. Find a Mentor with Experience in Whatever You’re Trying to Achieve

Ideally, a mentor should have experience in the field you’re interested in—sales, marketing, corporate management, law, medicine, whatever. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time for both parties.

For instance, I have a couple friends who are plumbers. They’re great guys who are good at what they do, but I wouldn’t ask them for advice on building a software company.

That’s why before you even start looking for a mentor, you have to know what you want to achieve. You need clear goals that someone can actually help you with. Otherwise, you’ll connect with someone, they’ll ask how they can help you, and all you’ll have to say is, “Hm, I don’t know.”

It goes back to the old saying, “When the student is ready, the master will appear.” Once you have clarity on what you want to achieve, and you’ve set goals to work toward, it becomes much easier to find someone to help you.

3. Consider What You Can Offer Them Just as Much as What They Can Offer You

The mentor relationship isn’t a one-way street. No one, in any scenario, likes to continuously give to someone else without getting anything in return.

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The big issue here is that most people who are looking for a mentor are young, and they feel like they don’t have anything to offer. I’ll say this a thousand times—you have something to offer. It just may not initially cross your mind that it’s something a potential mentor may need.

Take the example of the guy who introduced me to his neighbor at Sony. There’s no way I could have helped him with scaling a company or selling it, and it’s not like he needed my help with that in the first place. But he was an old school kind of guy—I don’t even know if he has a smartphone. There’s no way he could have built a website for himself.

You shouldn’t have to jump through hoops or make this into a transactional relationship. But you should attempt to offer something in return, even if it’s just your energy, enthusiasm, and hunger to learn.

4. Seek out People Who Are Successful Without Needing to Show It

Many people think of the “ideal” mentor as one of the many inspirational people they see online—someone like Gary Vaynerchuk or Tony Robbins.

Yes, those guys are very successful and would likely be great mentors. But they also get 10,000 emails a week asking them for advice and mentorship. Your message is going to be a drop of water coming out of a firehose.

Here’s the secret:

There are plenty of people out there who have been just as successful in life, but don’t have an Instagram account. They don’t have a Facebook profile because they have $300 million in the bank, and they’re not seeking any external validation. Their business isn’t necessarily built around a personal brand.

It may be a little more difficult to find these people online, but that’s the point. If they have a blog, read it. If they do regularly post on a specific site, follow them. Comment on their posts. Share what they write. Learn about what they’ve done and whether they might be a good fit for you as a mentor.

And then, once you’ve put in the effort to learn about this person, reach out to them.

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5. Don’t Be Afraid of Reaching out or Being Rejected

So many people are terrified of reaching out to someone and asking for advice. And unfortunately, they allow the fear of being rejected to control their decision-making.

Never, ever, let fear rule anything in your life.

A former mentor of mine had a unique take on rejection. He told me,

“I actually love rejection because I look at it like harvesting pearls. Sometimes I have to open 99 oysters to find a pearl in the 100th. Which means every ‘no’ I get brings me closer to a ‘yes.’”

Start your search with something quick and easy. “Hey, I really enjoyed your article. I had a question about something you wrote. Can I email you?” If they say yes, ask away. Maybe send them an article on the topic you think might interest them.

And like that, you’re having a conversation with someone you admire.

The important thing to remember is that when people do reject your outreach, it’s almost never about you. It may simply have been the wrong time — maybe their dog was sick, maybe they had a big family vacation planned, or maybe they were just busy.

There are so many variables in people’s lives that it’s crazy to beat yourself up because someone didn’t want to be your mentor.

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6. Realize the Best Mentorships Turn into Friendships over Time

When I was younger and building a career for myself, I had what most people think of as a classic mentor relationship with older people in my field.

Now that I’ve had some success and gotten a little older, the relationships I have with people have changed to a degree. It’s no longer a formal mentor relationship—I think of it like having very successful friends that I ask for advice from time to time.

Successful People Attract Other Successful People

Instead of seeking out mentors, it becomes more about surrounding yourself with people that are much smarter than you and showing them you actually have something to offer.

And as you get a little older and more successful, you’re going to start seeing familiar emails show up in your inbox. Except for this time, you’ll be the one answering:

“Hey, I really liked that article you wrote. Would love to pick your brain on something if you’ve got a few minutes…”

More Resources for Entrepreneurs

Featured photo credit: NESA by Makers via unsplash.com

More by this author

Sami Rusani

A serial entrepreneur with several multi-million dollar businesses

Advice for Entrepreneurs: How To Find A Mentor Worth Listening To

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Last Updated on May 22, 2019

50 Great People To Follow On LinkedIn, No Matter Your Industry

50 Great People To Follow On LinkedIn, 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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