Nearly every self-help book will tell you that you need a business mentor. The general purpose of a mentor is to provide you with a foundation of advice, support and knowledge in the early days of business. The early days are tough. Cash flow will be tight, personal time will be non-existent, and to-do lists are never-ending. How is an entrepreneur supposed to find time to find and meet with a mentor?
Mentoring relationships need not be formalized arrangements. They can be as simple as having someone that you meet with for coffee every few weeks and discuss your business. Many entrepreneurs may have informal networks from which to choose a mentor; think industry associations, chambers of commerce, customers, and neighbours. For others, the choice to develop a relationship with a mentor is an exceptionally personal and large time commitment. Several mentorship programs exist which formally pair a mentor and a mentee. Having participated once as a Mentor, I can tell you what a fulfilling relationship it was. My Mentee would call me, often just to tell me what was going on in her life. Years later, we still keep in touch.
So, how do you go about finding a mentor?
Step 1: Decide on the type of relationship you want
The first thing is really figuring out the type of relationship you want, the realms of expertise the Mentor needs to have, and how they can help you. Set this expectation at the forefront, and make sure it is something that you can commit to.
Step 2: Research possible mentors
The next step is to research and brainstorm a list of possible mentors. These may be people in your community, industry or field of study. Make a list of the people who you would want to be your mentor and list the reasons why they would be good mentors for you, particularly what attracts you to having them as a Mentor.
Step 3: Try to find commonalities using resources such as LinkedIn
Did you graduate from the same school, have the same ethnicity, or are you members of the same association? Use points of commonality to open conversation or email about what you have in common with them. Much of this data can derived using LinkedIn or other social media platforms. Research the individual and show that you know something about them.
Step 4: Have an honest conversation with them about what you are looking for, the time commitment, and the goals you have
It is important to be honest to the prospective Mentor about the time commitment you require and what you are looking for in a mentorship.
If the individual is not interested or is not a good match, go to the next person on your list. You need to ensure that the match is a good one from the onset.
Step 5: Be realistic
Most professionals and business people cannot dedicate 10 hours a week to a Mentorship. You will be lucky to get 2 hours a month of their time. Use your time wisely. Communicate over email and phone, and when you do have face to face meetings, make sure you also give your mentor a chance to speak–there is nothing more irritating than a one-sided conversation.
By considering the commitment you expect from a Mentor, being realistic, and doing your homework, you will be leagues above the majority of individuals. If you do not succeed at first, don’t be discouraged. Finding the right mentor can take a while, but it is a wonderful experience that will help you professionally and personally, for years to come.