A mentor is defined as: “A trusted counselor or guide”. (Source) Ask any mentor or mentee and you will likely find that their experience has been a positive one, on both sides. And that’s the key: it needs to be a good experience for both the mentor and the mentee. A one-way street does not a trusted relationship make.
A good mentor will help you find your path to creating your own economy. Even more than that, they can help break the wall of silence that entrepreneurs tend to put up around themselves, particularly at the early stages of a mentor / mentee relationship. It’s difficult to share information about your company when it’s still in the early stages of growth, but if you can find someone who has valid and relatable experience, who can help illuminate your path to success, you will be have an easier time growing your business.
So how do you find the right mentor?
First you need to know who you are looking for, at least ‘on paper’:
- What skills do they bring to the table?
- What kind of personality do they have?
- Do you have a similar way of looking at things as they do?
Look for the right person, not the right position.
I had a friend who was dying to have a certain CEO mentor her in her new business idea. She had read a lot about him and his success and they had a mutual friend, so she had a way ‘in’, so to speak. Her concept was tech based and his experience was anything but. This didn’t necessarily have to be a barrier but what was problematic was that they were so essentially incompatible. She was the next wave; he was ‘old school’. He thought networking should take place at golf clubs with G&Ts; she lived for online networks with the occasional IRL event. Very soon after they began meeting, she saw that he was the wrong fit for her but knew that getting herself out of the relationship would be difficult. Luckily, he saw it too and bowed out. Or maybe it was because she didn’t play golf. Either way, they parted amicably, but it could have gone the other way.
Be flexible about HOW they mentor you.
If you’re expecting to co-share an office with your new mentor within the month, you will be disappointed. If you want a specific person as a mentor, there is a reason: they are successful at what they do. This also means that they are likely busy, so keep that in mind when they refuse dinner meetings or other time-consuming get togethers. Perhaps at first, you’ll be operating in a virtual capacity, meeting via email discussions or Skype. That said, don’t pick someone who is so busy that they will have no time for you: it won’t be a fruitful relationship.
Remember that mentoring is about give and take.
This person is giving their time to help you—assuming you aren’t remunerating them—so make sure you don’t take too much of it. And be appreciative towards them. There is nothing worse than giving your time to someone else and having that person take it for granted, with not even a thank you at the end of the day! The whole relationship has to evolve organically if it’s going to evolve at all, so take it one step at a time and don’t be too aggressive. If you’re unpleasant to mentor, no one will stick around for long. Ideas and suggestions aren’t personal attacks, so be open to what you’re being told, even if you don’t like it.
Look in the right places.
The best place to start is within your own network. Whether that’s virtual or if you have a group that you meet with regularly. The ideal mentor may not be a member of your immediate network but that’s the point: by letting others know what you are looking for, someone within your group may have a great suggestion or contact that they can put you in touch with.
Cold calling potential mentors, who are also strangers, from your LinkedIn search just because you like their credentials is, on the whole, not likely to work. If you really want to connect with someone you admire but don’t have a connection to, follow them on Twitter, or other social media. Interact with them digitally. Build a conversation that way before you even think of approaching them about mentoring. Can you refer them some work? Can you talk up an article they wrote on your own blog? Look for opportunities to interact and you might find that they start asking YOU questions about your business!
If you need a group of entrepreneurs to share with and who might lead you to the right mentor for your business, spend time with us here at Entrepreneur House. Visit us on Facebook too!