A while ago a friend of mine said to me, “I’ve had a mentor for everything I’ve done in my life… So why would pregnancy be any different?” Now, months later, my friend has a baby…. And I can see that she was exactly right.
This is hardly a novel concept, there are plenty of articles about the importance of mentorship for advancing your career. What I’m learning is that mentors can be helpful for more than just career decisions. You could have a mentor to help when buying your first house, a mentor for leading better presentations, or a mentor to consult about a serious relationship. Here are some of the many ways mentors could be huge value adds in your life…
1. You Don’t Need to Reinvent the Wheel
Chances are someone has already successfully done the thing you’re trying to do. And those are the people you should consider when looking for a mentor. Go out, find them, and ask how they did it. If you take advice from those you admire and then attempt to follow in their footsteps, you’ll likely achieve the same successes.
2. Build Valuable Skill Sets Today
…Even if you won’t need it until later. Recently, I’ve been asking mentors for specific advice on specific things and I’ve found it really rewarding. In fact, I keep imagining what a strong professional I’ll be in five years if I keep practicing these skills now. And that includes the skills that aren’t directly related to my current job role!
3. Serious Validation
A mentor can validate your work in ways that your friends and your family cannot. They’ll be honest when you’re doing well, and they’ll be honest when you need to improve. Great mentors may even lead you on the path to improvement and show you specifically how to get there.
Finding a Mentor
Now that you’re sold on how a mentor could provide value in your professional and personal life, let’s talk about finding one.
First, find people who inspire you. Use whatever tools you’ve got! Subscribe to blog posts, podcasts, LinkedIn posts and Instagram feeds of people whose work you admire. I’m a big reader, so I queue up influential books I hope to read on the Good Reads app.
Next, see if anyone you know can make an introduction between you and one of these people you admire. Most likely, this method will get you a response.
However, if you can’t get an intro, send an email or LinkedIn message out of the blue. A genuine message about something specific is hard to ignore. Something like, “I am so impressed with how gracefully you spoke on that panel last week. Your words about failure really resonated with me, and have since inspired me to think more carefully about how to get my own business off the ground. I’d love to pick your brain and hear more of your story. Do you have any time to grab coffee next week?”
Lastly, always make the coffee/lunch ask! Worst case scenario: they don’t respond. Best case scenario: they’re flattered and excited to meet you. (Please note: being ignored really is the worst case scenario. No sane human would ever respond negatively to a kind message that compliments their work.) It doesn’t always work, but you have nothing to lose by trying!