Sir Richard Branson once wrote, “The difference between a budding entrepreneur who merely shows promise and one who is already enjoying some success often comes down to mentoring.”
It turns out the Virgin Group founder was onto something.
When 45 CEOs were surveyed, 71 percent said they were certain that company performance had improved as a result. Even more interesting, 84 percent claimed that having a mentor has helped them avoid costly mistakes and they have become proficient in their roles much faster.
While there’s little doubt that having a mentor can be helpful, finding and securing a mentor can be a challenge. But, that process can become a bit easier if you use these 5 tips on finding a mentor.
1. Be clear on what you want.
The first step that you need to take when looking for a mentor is knowing exactly what you want to get out of the relationship. Bill Ingram, VP of Adobe Analytics and Adobe Social, suggests that you ask questions like, “What are my goals?” and “Why do I believe that this person can help me achieve them?”
Ingram also recommends that you don’t tell your mentor what you think they want to hear. Be honest with yourself and think about the reasons why this relationship can benefit both parties.
2. Offer value.
Mentorship isn’t a one-way street. As I just mentioned, it has to be beneficial for both parties. Before you approach your mentor, think about how you can you help them in return. For example, if you’re a coder or programmer who needs a mentor to help you launch your startup, and your would-be mentor lacks these skills, then you can offer to do some coding, like updating their website so that it is responsive.
If you narrowed down your list of potential mentors, then do some research on who they are, what they do, and what might be their possible needs that you can fulfill for them. A balance with your mentor means that you will both work harder for each other.
3. Work on your emotional intelligence.
Emotional Intelligence can be defined as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.” Since you’re going to be spending a lot of time with your mentor, EI is important because it enhances your communication skills and prevents you from being, well, annoying.
Other beneficial qualities of EI include being open to change, not dwelling on the past, know when to work and when to play, and be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. Possessing these skills will go a long way in maintaining a solid and productive mentor-mentee relationship.
4. Your mentor finds you.
Sometimes your hard work and dedication on a project can actually lead to a mentor finding you.
That’s exactly what happened with Myleik Teele, founder of curlBOX;
My mentors found me working. My boss was my mentor when I got my first full-time job when I was 25. My first boss literally taught me how to order from restaurants because I was a black girl from Inglewood, California, and I had never had sushi, I had never been to Mr. Chow, I had never been to a restaurant on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, but with this new job I had meetings there. She helped me with everything from my skin to my hair to what to order. She bought me my first gift card to Barney's; I remember thinking, "What is Barney's?" The sheer fact that I had to go into Barney's was a mentoring experience. It was exposure, which I believe is your greatest education. Your mentor usually finds you doing great work. People think that mentors come with angel wings and fall from the heavens: "I am your mentor." It’s usually not like that. It’s usually somebody who helps you in a certain aspect of your life and grooms you.
5. Understand the eight levels of mentoring.
Michael Hyatt, best-selling author and founder and CEO of the leadership development Michael Hyatt and Company, states that you can start being mentored right now if you understand the following eight levels of mentoring.
- Reading blogs and listening to podcasts of influencers and industry experts.
- Reading a well-written book.
- Being instructed or learning new techniques by taking a course.
- Live instruction by attending a conference.
- Hang out with masterminds. This is actually an old idea. For example, Benjamin Franklin started the Junto Club where members would debate questions of morals, politics, and natural philosophy, and to exchange knowledge of business affairs. The club was also a charitable organization.
- Join a membership site to receive exclusive content and exclusive training.
- You can also hire a coach if you have the means.
- If you are able to find a mentor, Hyatt says, “start by building the relationship—just like you would anyone else.”
What I like about these eight levels is that it shows us that a mentor can come in different shapes and sizes. Just because you’ve personally never met Richard Branson or Oprah Winfrey doesn’t mean that they can’t be your mentor. They’ve written so many articles and books that you can have a lot of information from them so that you could consider them to be a mentor.