When it comes to attracting a mentor, there are a few things you can do to stand out and get the attention of someone that matters. In all my years of building successful businesses, I can tell you the mentors on my path contributed largely to my successes.
A mentor can be any person that has skill, experience, or expertise in an area that could help your career. Usually, it's information you can't learn in books or online, so it's vital that you pick his or her brain to get that "intel." However, in order to actually find that mentor, you have to ask. You have to put yourself out there, show your interest to learn, and built a rapport that builds a sound relationship.
You'll be surprised how responsive successful people can be--when they see a younger version of themselves hustling to make their dreams a reality. You'll find many people are flattered that you are asking for their advice, so they will help you. And that's what you need if you're going to make it in the real world--help, from a lot of people.
That said, it's important not to rely on just one person, no matter how smart they are. Having different mentors for different things is what gives you a more well-rounded view of both the world and your ambitions. I certainly haven't forgotten all the people who helped me. My life story has been full of mentors, and many of the lessons I learned from them made their way into my book, All In. In fact, most of my mentors didn't even know they were my mentors; they just thought they were being my friends!
So, how do you find a mentor, especially the right mentor, and build a relationship with them that lasts a lifetime?
1. Nurture your own education, first.
I have always been a go-getter. Even as a kid, I never waited for the answer to come to me--I went out to find it myself. I studied on my own. I read books. And I sought out people I could learn from directly, who could answer the questions I had from direct experience. As I got older, I did everything I could to remain curious about how things worked, and to keep asking questions to feed my own learning.
This is something I have since passed down to my employees, both former and current, and it's something I would like to pass along to you. Don't wait for the answer to come to you. Don't wait for someone pull you aside and say, "I'm going to teach you how things get done." Don't wait for anyone else's approval.
Go out there and find it yourself. That level of hunger, curiosity, and persistence will speak volumes about the type of person you are, and more than enough people will present themselves as potential mentors willing to help.
They were once just like you.
2. Look for the mentor that can teach you what you want to know.
Not all mentors are created equal.
Finding the right mentor is all about understanding what it is you want to learn. You already know what you want to do with your business, right? So look at the marketplace, and target some players in your business area that you aspire to be like. Is there someone in your network who's doing what you want to be doing one day? If so, reach out to them. You don't have to walk up and say, "Will you be my mentor?"--just establish a relationship and ask for advice.
This is what most people misunderstand about mentorship. It almost always starts with a single question, and then grows organically from there. It's not about someone pulling you aside and saying, "I want to mentor you." It's about you asking the right questions, at the right times, and proving that you're willing to learn--over and over again.
If you're lucky, the person you're asking will continue to provide you with answers.
3. Be willing to be wrong.
One of the most valuable kinds of mentors you can attract is the one that will tell you when your idea needs improving, or you should reassess the likelihood of your business meeting your goals.
I have met a lot of entrepreneurs who get emotionally attached to an idea and think it's better than it really is. I've also met a lot of small business owners who have grand plans, and think they're capable of more than they really are.
I offer the same advice to you. However, in order to find people you can learn from who are going to tell it to you like it is, you have to be open to hearing that sort of feedback. You have to be willing to be wrong, and that's okay.
4. When someone presents themselves as your mentor, trust them.
Finding a mentor is a fortunate thing. It's something I never took for granted, and neither should you.
What drives mentors to teach is seeing their principles passed along to the next person. They get fulfillment out of seeing things put into practice. Nothing encourages a mentor to teach more than a student that takes what they learn, applies it, and then comes back for more.
It was always apparent who took advantage of those resources and who didn't. You want to be the type of person who devours knowledge and makes the most of every opportunity to learn. That's what makes you stand out, and that's what makes a mentor figure take notice.
5. Stay humble.
What's that old saying? "There's a thin line between love and hate?" Well, there's a thin line between thinking too big and thinking too small. You have to thread that needle. To do that, you want to aim high but stay grounded. Believe in yourself, but talk to people further along than you. Have confidants who will shoot straight with you! And whatever you do, don't drive blind, because we all know where a wing-and-a-prayer strategy will get you in the business world, into bankruptcy court.
I'm not telling you to not reach for the stars. But even the most successful people have mentors, and people they turn to for advice and insight. When you make it big, find a mentor for dealing with success. In 1995, after I sold half of my first company I needed someone to help me understand dealing with money and family and turned to Lewis Katz, a lawyer who went into business and got so wealthy he and a few of his partners owned the New Jersey Nets, the New Jersey Devils, and the New York Yankees. I asked, "Lew, you've been wealthy for a long time. Will you help me understand how you deal with money and family?" Lew gave me some great advice. And he won't be the last mentor I have.
Always keep yourself open to continuing to learn. The journey never ends.