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Finding a mentor can be frustrating. How do you do it? Do you walk up to a person and ask them? Or, do you shadow them for years hoping your relationship will morph into a mentorship?
Many people believe a mentor is going to find them. This is an unrealistic expectation. It takes work to find the right person and develop the relationship.
Mentors are very valuable. They can provide you with important insight into any area of your life. This is especially valuable when they provide you with insight into a “blind spot” – a flaw in your character or skills that you may not be aware of. In this article I want to outline some ideas for how to find a mentor.
Before we start, what is a mentor?
A mentor is an older person that has more experience and knowledge than you do. This person should be willing to impart their knowledge in you and correct you when the need arises. According to the dictionary: “a person who gives a younger or less experienced person help and advice over a period of time, especially at work or school”.
Identify the person you want to be like
You shouldn’t choose just anyone to be your mentor. Find someone that has achieved what you would like to achieve in life. It could be in any area: Physical (exercise), Business, Relationships or a Spiritual.
Don’t choose someone that has resources that you want. Asking someone to be your mentor because of their wealth or status isn’t good form.
Find someone that is like you. They should have similar interests and goals. Or, they should have achieved goals that you currently have.
Take some time finding a mentor, you don’t have to find someone over night.
Study the person
Once you have identified the person you want to be your mentor. You should study them. Remember, your mentor is smarter and busier than you are. You don’t want to waste their time by asking them questions that they’ve already answered in a public forum.
Here are some ways you can study your prospective mentor:
- Read their blog
- Follow them on social media and/or YouTube
- Subscribe to their email list and listen to their podcast.
Consider this persons strengths and weaknesses. Don’t expect them to be a good business mentor when they specialize in a different area.
For some people stopping at this step may be enough. The next step, “Establishing a relationship” isn’t always necessary. This is especially true in the world we live in today where almost everyone and their dog has a Blog, Youtube Channel, Podcast or some form of social platform. See Virtual Mentors.
Establishing a relationship
Don’t Ask someone to be your mentor, yet.
Asking someone immediately to be your mentor is a bad idea. If they are successful there is a good chance that they are very busy. When you ask someone to be your mentor you are asking that person to take on a second Job. That may not be your intention, but that is how it is perceived.
Tim Ferris outlines his method of approaching potential mentors in this podcast. His method is quite simple.
- Establish contact with the person you want to be your mentor.
- Ask them a very specific question. This question should allow them to give you some helpful insight into an area of their expertise.
- Stop contacting them all together for a while. This is by design. He doesn’t want to pester this busy person.
- Send follow up questions. In these follow up questions he states what he has already done to find the answer. He also shows the person that he isn’t lazy and is committed to arriving at the correct answer.
you’ll use this process to establish a relationship with this person. Now, obviously we’re human and there isn’t a clear cut recipe for establishing a relationship with someone, nor should there be. But this is a good method to use to show someone that you are interested and willing to learn.
If you find something that this person would find interesting, send it to them.
Almost everyone has a podcast or YouTube channel these days. This is great because it allows you to learn from them without even knowing them. Don’t take offense to this, it also means that you can learn from mentors that may never have had the time of day for you. Ultimately this type of access gives us access to people that we may never had access to traditionally.
Find people that are experts in an area that you want to know more about. Find out if they have a podcast or YouTube channel and glean as much as you can.
You can reach out and engage with these people on platforms like twitter.
If you’re going to ask someone to have lunch or coffee with you. Have some questions prepared. It should be something they haven’t already answered publicly. If they have, ask them if they could go into more depth on the topic.
When you are meeting with your mentor it’s important that you keep quiet. Only talk if you are asking questions or if you have been asked a question.
Remember you are trying to establish a friendship. Be genuine and polite.
On asking someone to be your mentor
I stated earlier in this blog that you shouldn’t ask someone to be your mentor yet. I am not a fan of doing this ever. That being said, there is a time and a place for it.
If you are able to build a relationship with a person it’s not always worth putting pressure on yourself or your mentor by asking them to be a mentor. By putting a label on the relationship it can add a frustrating dynamic to the relationship.
There are situations where your mentor might say “Hey! Can I be your mentor?”, in which case putting the label on the relationship is warranted.