Mr. Internet is full of reasons why you should have a mentor and for good reason. The benefits of having even just one person in your corner who holds you to a higher standard than you may even hold yourself can be not only career changing, but life altering.
So the obvious question becomes — How do you find one?
Unfortunately, the answer is you don’t.
You don’t find mentors — you earn them and below are three tried and true methods to do just that.
1. Give away your best ideas for free:
There is loads of truth to the Zen proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” From my experience the best way for mentors to “appear” is by first being a mentor to others.
If every day you are doing what you can to help other people get what they want, it is only a matter of time before the right people will notice.
This will not be easy.
You will have to put in the time.
You will even have to give away your best ideas for free.
Most of all, you will have to do this without expecting anything in return, because nothing turns mentors off more than someone who keeps score.
James Altucher is a master at this. On numerous times he has attributed his success to writing down 10 ideas every day to help the people in his life, or the people he wishes were, and then he gives them away.
If you are looking for a mentor follow James’s lead and lift your head up and take note of how you can help people reach their goals. I promise it will only a matter of time before life rewards you with the right people who will help you to reach yours.
Quick side — This is exactly how I recently became a startup mentor at Startupbootcamp and a contributor for Crunchbase despite being a newbie to the startup/tech scene. I gave both places every idea I had and some of those ideas were good.
2. Show your potential mentor you are willing to put in the work:
Recently I was talking to Zdravko Cvijetic about what impressed him about both Tom Kuegler and Niklas Göke when they first connected. Without hesitation “Z” said it was clear that both Nik and Tom not only listened to his advice, they put his words into action.
Not only both that, both Nik and Tom took it one step further and let Z know that by him helping them, they were able to help others.
You want to get on the map of a someone you admire? This recipe works—
“Thank you for your advice regarding X. As a result I was able to accomplish Y and this was able to help Z (no pun intended).”
This recipe works because mentors want to see positive action. They do not want to see that their words fell on deaf ears and they certainly do not want to see that their words were used only for personal gain.
They want to see that by taking the time to help you, you took the time to help others.
What have your potential mentors taught you that has helped you to go on to better help others? If you do not have a problem answering that question it may be time to make the initial connection, and the best part is you already have a guideline for how to start.
3. Show your potential mentor you are paying attention:
Dale Carnegie left us with a million and one nuggets of wisdom over the years. However, when it comes to building relationships few ring more true than, “If you want to be interesting, first be interested.”
From my experience, few things come off as more interesting to other people than someone who proactively helped them solve a problem they were facing.
It does not even have to be a big problem, just something that lets them know you are paying attention. Are you a Linkedin expert and it is clear the person you admire is not? Could you clean up their profile description and send it over to them? Are you a great editor and you want to get on the radar of a writer? If so, stop offering them your services and actually fix something they have already written. They will notice.
This point is very special for me as it has been the key to me working all over the world over the last 12 years as an entrepreneur, freelance consultant and coach. For more ideas on how to get on the radar of people you admire check out this fantastic article by Raghav Haran — the dude is good.
Oh and I almost forgot. Odds are if you are reading this on Medium you like to read and you like to write. If you want to get on the radar of someone here, instead of quoting them in an article, why don’t you write an article about what you have learned from them?
Talk about an impression.