How to Find the Right Mentor
When you’re competing in a sea of startups, the support, direction and motivation a mentor can provide can be that extra ingredient you need to rise above the rest.
But if you’re new to the entrepreneurial game, you’ve probably got some questions about how to get started.
Who should you approach? Where do you find them? How can you be sure they are a great fit to mentor you, and do you need more than one?
The mentoring relationship is a very personal one, so it’s impossible to set generic rules on how to create one.
That said, there are a few key qualities that successful mentorships demonstrate, which can be applied to any industry or personality.
Here’s our guide on how to find the right mentor:
So, who makes a good mentor?
There’s no rules on who the ideal mentor should be ― it all depends on your own unique skills, work style and the personal rapport you have with your mentor.
But if you’re struggling to find the right person, start by narrowing your search to your own networks first.
It’s a lot more achievable to approach someone you already know than to cold call a stranger!
For example, your mentor could be anyone from a current or former teacher, an old boss (or a future one), a friend of a friend or even a family member.
If you’ve considered those options and are still struggling to find the right fit, consider reaching out to someone who you look up to in business, and who has a track record for success.
Be aware that it can be a tough approach, and without a personal introduction many busy business owners won’t get back to you.
However, by doing your research into their story and showing a genuine interest in how they operate, you’re far more likely to get a response.
One thing to remember: don’t be held back thinking that you need to pick one mentor to team up with.
There’s many aspects to business and no one-size-fits-all solution, so it makes sense to tap into the expertise of more than one mentor, depending on the guidance you need at the time.
Where are all the mentors?
It’s hard to find a good mentor if you’re you’re not being proactive in the search.
So if you’re the shy type, it’s time to cast aside your comfort zone and start networking. The hardest part is always starting, so throw yourself in the deep end and you’ll most definitely cope better than you expected.
Here’s some common places you might start with:
- Your own workplace or co-working space
- At a community for like minded entrepreneurs
- Industry events, groups and seminars
- Social media and LinkedIn groups
- Media publications (try Startup Smart or The Fetch to get a sense of who’s out there).
You’d be surprised how simple it can be to reach out to an author of an article or blog you enjoy and grab a coffee.
Don’t call them mentors, just ask for help
Leading into it with a smooth “Hey do you wanna be my mentor???” isn’t probably the best introduction.
There’s no ‘right way’ to do it, but just be genuine about where you’re at.
Opt for a simple, “Hey I loved getting an insight into what you do and would love to learn a bit more about it. If you’ve got time, would you be up for a coffee?”
It’s soft, it’s genuine, and it shows you want to learn.
If they say no, be nice, take it on the chin, and then maybe ask a bit later when they seem a bit less busy. Otherwise, they’re probably not a compatible mentor for you.
What’s the right style of mentoring for me?
Famous mentors and motivational speakers can charge thousands of dollars for one-on-one training or for participants to attend a workshop.
But, most aspiring entrepreneurs don’t have the resources to pay for that kind of support.
And to be honest, it’s not always the most suitable form of mentoring for everyone.
There’s a difference between a professional motivational coach and a mentor.
Paid coaching tends to be more useful in the short term, and for addressing specific issues with your business or a stage in your career.
An organic mentorship, however, is based on a more genuine and informal long term relationship ― and is designed to benefit both members of the partnership.
Tips on approaching a mentor
A good approach to try when you are looking for a mentor is to stay relaxed and reach out for a short meeting or casual coffee to absorb some of their story — provide a reason you are interested in them personally and what you hoped to learn from the experience.
You’d be surprised how many people are willing to give you their valuable time.
Don’t stop at just one — the value of multiple mentors in different industries and stages of business is infinite!
Your “next steps” if the initial meetup goes well, is to keep your new mentor in your peripheral and look for opportunities to help them.
If you can ever give them some information that they’d find useful or connect them with another person that they’d be interested in meeting, take that opportunity to reach out.
If you pay them enough favours and you have enough of these people in your network, then you’ll find that over time you can reach out to the best person when you’re in need of help to a specific problem.
To get the most out of your mentoring, here’s a few things to consider:
- Someone is giving you one of their most valuable resources: time. So be reliable, punctual and respectful in return.
- Come prepared for your catch-ups and do your homework in advance. Don’t stifle the conversation by not doing your research ahead of time.
- Ask questions and invite feedback on your ideas (don’t just expect to be lectured or told what to do every step of the way)
- Pay it forward when you’re in the position to mentor someone else who’s starting out.
Another concept which has been gaining popularity in recent years is that of the ‘accountability partner’.
This is not necessarily a mentor, because they don’t need to be related to your industry or even have any experience in the world of business.
Instead, their role is to act as a personal cheerleader, sounding board and to make sure you stay accountable for your goals.
This style of partnership is typically a mutual arrangement, so you’ll both be encouraging each other to stay focused on track (as opposed to a relationship in which the expert dispenses advice to the apprentice).
A few quick networking tips
Since finding a mentor is a lot like networking, we thought we’d include 3 very simple tips from one of the best networkers in the world, Tim Ferris.
According to Tim, you just need to remember 3 things:
- Don’t dismiss people.
- Don’t be a dick.
- Don’t rush.
Tim advocates treating every single person to meet as if they’re important (because they are), and aims to build a meaningful long-term relationship.
Instead of treating your mentor a pitstop along the journey, make them a make them a travelling companion.
We’ve got some events coming up where you can start exercising these tips. Like Woody Allen once said, 80% of success is just showing up.
So, if you’re interested, just hit up our events page for masterclasses, pitching competitions and more.