In any endeavour in life that is even a tiny bit complicated or tough to achieve, there is nothing that can help you progress faster than finding a good coach or mentor. When you think about it, people rarely go it alone and get very far in other disciplines:
Learning a language, the piano or improving your golf game for example.
We’d usually think about a coach or teacher straight away for these things, so why go through the pain of being a lone wolf when trying to build a business on the internet? A mentor can be formal in the corporate world of course but otherwise, the relationship can often be more like a friendship with a role model.
A good mentor is somebody who helps guide your development and it is important to remember that this relationship should be valuable for both parties. These are some things you should look to get out of interaction with a mentor:
- Improve skills
- Improve confidence
- Accelerate development
- Learn from somebody else’s experiences
- Obtain new perspectives
How do you find a good mentor?
It is important to realise firstly, that a mentor won’t be armed with some magic dust. They won’t automatically know where you want to go or what you want to achieve. So some planning has to be done on your side too.
Be specific and map out goals. Have a vision of how your mentor can help get you where you want to go and this will both help your mentor come up with the most useful advice and also allow you to pull things back if you think the advice is going off course.
A mentor should be successful in the area you want to be successful in. It sounds obvious, yes, but so many people make the mistake of taking advice from somebody they like and know well, because they may trust that person’s opinion and it is the easy option.
This can be such a mistake. I have seen many people do it and I have too. For example, your well-meaning uncle who talks you out of following through with an idea and who is totally inappropriate to give advice on the subject. It’s not because they don’t want to see you succeed, it’s because they don’t want to see you blow your money/waste your time/get hurt.
Bypass the well-meaning close relatives and friends and find somebody who is successful in the area you are interested in and been where you want to go.
Some ideas of where to find your mentor/s are:
- Business associates and successful colleagues
- A previous supervisor or boss (be careful about current bosses)
- University or college tutors/lecturers
- Family members and friends (but they must be already successful in your area of interest)
- A respected member of a society or club you attend
Once you have spotted one, two or more likely candidates who may be able to guide and support you, you need to approach them in the right way. After all, you want to be an attractive mentee!
Looking for online discussion groups for your field or niche is one way. LinkedIn can be an excellent place to start. Also, you could always start your own discussion group and bring new people towards you that way. Keep an eye out for events and training in your area too.
A good thing to do is invite a potential mentor for a quick coffee. “I’ve got a few challenges with my work. Can I buy you a coffee and run through some of them for 10 minutes?”. This sounds reasonable and you just know it will probably end up being 30 minutes.
From here, once the ice has been broken, you could say “this has been really helpful, I’m going to try a few things out. Do you mind if I come back to you in a few weeks to chat about how I have got on?”. Most people will say “yes” because it is reasonable and very quickly and easily, you might just have got yourself a new mentor.
Show your mentor your appreciation.
It is likely that something they get out of the relationship is the feel-good factor that comes from seeing somebody grow and achieve through their help. So reward them with specific stories and updates on your progress.
Also, think how you may be able to give back. Ask if you can help with anything in their own business or day to day activity. This helps to make things mutually beneficial.
As you progress in your field, remember who and what got you there. Don’t forget the people who helped you along the way.
All the best!
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