Finding a Mentor

Mentors can be invaluable—offering guidance, inspiration, perspective and motivation. How do you go about finding your own?

To find the right person, look for people in your industry who have blazed the very trail you’re traveling. They’re sure to save you from common mistakes. But keep your eyes open for successful people in any field. If you’re drawn to a person in another industry because of her personality, philosophy or approach to business, she certainly can teach you something to apply in your world.

Get the ball rolling. Once you’ve found the right person, be smart about establishing a relationship with him. Have you met before, online or in person? Will he recognize your name when it lands in his inbox? If so, you might be ready to simply send an email asking if he would consider being your mentor.

But some people may not respond to a cold-call approach. If there are specific people you’ve met, but still don’t know well enough, deliberately build a relationship by being in touch about three times a year with a brief, sincere email. Try complimenting them on a presentation you heard them give, a successful project they just completed, or send a note of gratitude around Thanksgiving. Next time you’re both attending the same conference, invite them to lunch. For certain people, building this relationship first will be key to accepting your invitation to mentorship.

Be prepared to adapt. Even though you may be hoping for some in-depth, one-on-one time with a mentor, keeping her commitment small-ish may be your best bet to a yes. Ask to take her out to lunch a few times a year, or monthly or quarterly email mentoring might be the best fit for your mentor. Skype might be a good fit to check in occasionally. Being flexible shows you appreciate whatever your mentor can offer.

Have you had a successful mentoring relationship?

Post by Sara Urquhart, director and co-founder of Alt Summit. Street Art by Jubran E. Elias.