Mentoring is invaluable when you’re trying to get your business idea up and running. It’s a clever way of packing years of business expertise and experience into a very short amount of time (like the time it takes to drink a coffee). However, finding the right mentor can be difficult. It can be hard to know where to find experts, whether a mentor is a good fit or how to reach out to them in the first place. There are a few things that you can do to set up a highly effective mentor relationship.
Know what you want to learn
Before reaching out to people, think about the type of advice you’re after. Are you wanting technical help with your product or service? Do you need industry expertise or insights? Or perhaps you need support on a more personal development level? If you’re not sure what help you need, think about what skills or expertise you need to succeed in your business and where the gaps in your experience might be.
Go wide with your search
Once you’ve identified what you’d like to learn from your mentors, you then need to find people with this experience or who have gone through similar challenges to what you think you’ll face. Think about your ideal mentor and brainstorm where they might be:
- Is there anyone in your family and friends network who fits this description, or perhaps they know of someone else who might be able to help
- Does your school or university have an alumni network that you can tap into?
- Are there local community groups and/or business associations that may have relevant mentors?
- Are there events, workshops or conferences happening that might have relevant mentors attend?
- Can you use online mediums such as LinkedIn, Slack communities, facebook groups or other forums where mentors might gather?
Stand out from the crowd
The chances are that if you’ve identified a person as a potential mentor, then so have many others. These potential mentors will likely be highly sought after and busy so an email or LinkedIn message might not be enough to catch their attention. How will you stand out from the crowd? Firstly, it’s important to take the time to show them you’re serious. Don’t send each mentor the same generic LinkedIn/email message. Research their background, find common interests and say something that is personalised. Next, make all contact convenient for them and don’t assume everyone is the same. For example, not all mentors will want to meet for a coffee or lunch, others might prefer to Skype, call or email. Some might prefer to meet within business hours, others may want to meet after hours. Third, don’t ask them to be your mentor straight away. This is a sure fire way to send people running! Remember these people are extremely busy and mentoring will sound like a big time commitment. Also, note that you are yet to meet this person – they might not be the right fit. Simply ask them to meet and after a few more catch ups, you’ll have a better idea if you get along and if they’re up for it.
Assess whether you’re a good match
Not every person you reach out to will be a good fit for you. There are a few things that you should look out for when meeting your potential mentors that will indicate that they’d be great for you. Our top 4 tips:
- They don’t tell you what you want to hear, but challenge you instead. Good mentors will be honest, call out your blindspots and shift your perspective.
- They don’t tell you what to do. They best mentors won’t tell you what to do or make the decisions for you. They’ll share with you their experience and advice to help you arrive at your own solution.
- They’ll be approachable and you’ll feel like you can trust them and turn to them for help, even if it’s for something embarrassing.
- They’ll have the time to commit. A good mentor/mentee relationship should translate into communication at least once a quarter. You should keep them updated more frequently, however you both need to touch base at least a few times a year to keep the relationship healthy.
If you’re not sure what type of mentor you need or how to find a good mentor, then trial what a mentor relationship could look and feel like through Work My Own Way’s Mentor Dinners. These dinners are for a small group of 8 to 10 entrepreneurs who will wine and dine with 2 local and prominent business owners. Over dinner, you’ll get to learn from those who have walked the path before, as well as network with other likeminded entrepreneurs around the table. Check out our upcoming Mentor Dinners here.