As a young professional or new startup founder, you will undoubtedly need all the help you can get to achieve success and reach your business and career goals. Business guides and online classes can be valuable resources, but if you're looking for something more personal and customized to your specific needs, consider seeking out a mentor.
Mentors and advisors can play a crucial role in your success, as they can leverage their own expertise to help you overcome hurdles and make the smartest decisions for your business. Finding the right mentor, however, is not always as easy as it sounds. These six entrepreneurs share some of the steps any young professional should take before choosing a mentor, and how to approach your chosen advisor to secure their support.
Find a mentor who knows your industry.
Arguably one of the most important aspects to take into account when looking for an advisor is their knowledge of your niche. "Make sure to find a mentor in your industry," says Serenity Gibbons, local unit lead for NAACP in Northern California.
"When I did that, it really changed my results. The advice was more tailored and fitting to what I wanted to do. Plus, the mentor offered so many more connections that became a game changer for me," she explains.
Be ready to truly connect.
"Finding a mentor is like dating. It's difficult and often awkward," says Baruch Labunski, director of Rank Secure. "You want an authentic connection and a mutually beneficial relationship, so be prepared for lots of meetings. Chances are you won't find them on your first try, so be patient and learn from the process."
Knowing what you're looking for in a mentor and adjusting your expectations accordingly is also of crucial importance. "Be open and flexible, enjoy the process but don't be fixed on the idea that you're going to find this 'one person' who can do everything you need," Labunski advises.
Don't ask someone who is still building their business.
An important tip to keep in mind is to not choose a mentor who is still actively building their own business, according to The Superfan Company Co-Founder Brittany Hodak. "I've been approached by dozens of young entrepreneurs who've asked me to mentor them in some capacity. I've turned almost all of them away because, despite being eight years into my business, I still spend most of my time doing business development."
"I simply don't have time to take on the responsibility of another person's business," she adds. "Make sure you're targeting someone in the right season of their career."
Analyze your motivations.
Young entrepreneurs should find out as much as possible about a potential mentor before approaching them. "If you're seriously considering pursuing a mentorship with an individual, take some time to figure out why you chose them specifically, how their work relates to your goals and how you can directly apply their tutelage," says Crush The PM Exam Founder Bryce Welker.
This will keep you from wasting time and help you avoid disappointment. "I can't tell you how many times I've idolized a figure in the past, only to find out later that they weren't all they were cracked up to be," he says.
Don't ask to 'pick their brain.'
"I've received countless emails over the years from people asking to 'pick my brain' to help them break into my industry. This phrase insinuates that everything I know can be taught in a single conversation," says Leila Lewis, founder and CEO of Be Inspired PR.
This approach will not do young professionals any favor as it verges on lack of consideration for the mentor. "It's essentially a vague and indirect way of asking to receive very valuable info for free," Lewis says. "Be specific and upfront about what you're hoping to learn, and find some way to offer value to your mentor."
Provide value in return.
The importance of establishing a collaborative relationship with your mentor is also emphasized by CallerSmart Founder Brian David Crane. "Try to make yourself as useful as possible to the mentor you're approaching. Show them the value that you could bring to their businesses and projects, and make it clear that you want to learn from them."
But all will be for naught if you don't actually follow your mentor's advice, Crane warns. "If a mentor feels that you're not taking into account what they're saying, it's unlikely that they will continue to mentor you."