[The Common Q+A] How do you find a mentor when you have limited experience and credibility?
We’ve been receiving a lot of really good questions lately from students taking our online entrepreneurship course, Startup Vault.
I’m sure this goes without saying, but I absolutely love talking with our students.
Tonight we got asked a great, common question that I felt eager to share with the rest of the world.
Q: Any tips on the best way to find a mentor when you don’t have credibility in terms of experience or qualifications? How do you make it valuable to them?
A: (From Mark Whitaker): Mentorship is a two way street. It may not be apparent how you can help right away but be open and available to anything. Many mentors know that a mentee cannot help them right away. Being a mentor is a #Givefirst mentality. The mentor recognizes that their mentee will eventually become a mentor and help out someone else. A mentor can be anyone, from a well respected teacher, to a co-worker or even a family friend. Start talking with some influential people in your life and they will morph into a mentor, it takes time!
A: (From me): Really good question — we get asked this one a lot. You can always ask a mentor “how can I help you?” He or she will always be psyched that you asked. Most of the time, they’ll say something like “don’t even worry about it for now!” Either way, start small. I always recommend emailing them an article within the next few weeks that you think they might like…introduce them to somebody in your network…write them a thank you card around the holidays.
It’s easy to lose track of all of your contacts and mentors if you’re meeting new people for coffee regularly (which you should be). Keeping a close eye on people’s updates on LinkedIn or creating your own personal CRM is always a good move. HubSpot and Streak are great, free options to integrate with your Gmail.
Here are a few more things that I’ve learned work really well:
-Keep mentors up to date with your progress. If it’s not someone you see often, I’d recommend reaching out every 3–6 months just to update them on where you’re at and ask them if they’d like to catch up over coffee. People love to know that you valued their advice and are putting it into action. They especially love it when they can see that their advice has clearly helped you. I personally send out a quarterly stakeholder update email to 2,500 people that I’ve come in contact with professionally at some point in my career. This list is always growing. You really have nothing to lose by reaching out to a mass network. The ABSOLUTE WORST CASE SCENARIO is somebody just ignores your email.
-Whenever you’re in a different city, ask yourself, “who do I know in this city?” You don’t necessarily have to set up a meeting with them to catch up (even though that’s a great idea), but a simple text or e-mail saying something like “hey, I was just running through the airport in Chicago and was thinking about you. Hope all is well!” Yes, that was a shameless sales plug — Bart Foster gave us that exact advice in his Startup Vault course on networking and email etiquette.
Hope this helps!