How to Find the Right Mentor and the Importance of Having One
What do Mr. Miyagi, Haymitch Abernathy, and Yoda all have in common? Each was a mentor to others throughout their lives, from the published page to the silver screen.
As a society, we love mentorship stories that cross the generational divide.
Why? Those stories remind us that if we stop and listen, we can learn valuable lessons—no, life-changing lessons—from those around us who have been there and done it before.
Why then, don’t you have a mentor helping to inspire and guide you along your path toward meeting your personal brand building goals?
Maybe you’ve been afraid to ask someone you admire to be your mentor.
Or, maybe you haven’t thought you needed one.
Or, maybe you just haven’t yet found the Mufasa to your Simba.
Regardless of the reason, it’s never too late to find a mentor who can inspire, motivate and challenge you to pursue greatness. They can share valuable knowledge to help you achieve your goals.
The right mentor may even be the pillar of your overall business development that takes your personal brand rapidly to the next level.
Read on to learn more about the value of a mentor, how to find the right one, and how to build that critical relationship. Your personal brand depends upon this!
Why Every Business Leader Needs a Mentor
On your path to building your personal brand, you are going to run into challenges. You will have successes, failures, and more questions than you have answers.
Having a mentor means having a trusted resource you can go to when times get tough, or exciting, or when you just want to bounce an idea off of someone experienced.
Don’t correlate working with a mentor, with weakness or shortcomings. Many of the most successful business leaders around the world have a mentor or coach who’s benefitted their career.
In fact, 80 percent of CEOs say mentors have helped them in their careers. Even Bill Gates once said, “Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast or a bridge player. We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
When Mentors Matter Most
You already know that to successfully build your personal brand means evaluating your successes and failures, looking at data, and deciding how to turn such information into strategies for moving forward.
When you are your own brand, however, it’s beyond personal. Reflecting on your successes and failures can be exceedingly subjective.
There are moments when you know something is not working, and you know why. However, maybe you’re not sure what to do about it. These are the key circumstances in which you can most fully leverage the guidance of a mentor.
An experienced colleague can look at your situation objectively, drawing on their personal experience (including their own humbling moments of learning, adversity and growth). From there, they can help you chart your next course.
As leadership author and speaker John C. Maxwell once said, “One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.”
How to Find the Right Mentor
At this point, you’re probably realizing how much you and your personal brand will benefit from bringing on a mentor. Now, you need to find the right one, for the current stage of your life and career.
This step is critical.
It’s not just about choosing someone you admire or someone with whom you have a comfortable rapport. This isn’t about plucking someone from your friend group, either.
Identifying a mentor is about finding someone whose past successes align with your goals. It’s from this place where a mentor can give you optimal advice based on their own experiences.
For these reasons, the ideal mentor may not be the individual who immediately comes to mind when you think of colleagues you admire.
5 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Mentor
1. Evaluate what you’re trying to accomplish
If what you need is a resource and advocate to guide you through a singular and specific goal, then that roadmap should influence your mentor selection.
For example, if you are just starting to build your personal brand, scale it, or expand your service offering, you may want to align yourself with someone in your network who you know has accomplished such achievements.
2. Choose someone whose style aligns well with yours.
You may know of a leader who has been wildly successful in growing his or her personal brand. This may be someone you’d love to learn from.
However, you won’t learn much of anything if your communication preferences and networking styles aren’t in synch.
There are many reasons why any two business leaders may not gel from a networking perspective.
Perhaps one individual is all about email, while the other values in-person communication. Maybe the mentee is highly sensitive and the mentor has more of a blunt, ‘call-it-like-I-see-it’ approach to giving feedback.
No matter how inspiring someone’s story is, if they aren’t someone you are comfortable seeking advice from and building a relationship with, your mentor relationship isn’t likely to last.
Think Obi-Wan and Anakin from Episode III.
3. Do you need an industry-specific mentor?
Do you want a mentor who has specific knowledge about your industry?
Many lessons in business leadership and personal branding cross the industry divide. There are also times, however, when working with someone who has personal experience in your industry may be of value.
For example, maybe you are trying to grow your personal brand as an inspirational writer or speaker. If you work with an established author and lecturer, they may be able to help you network or give you inside tips on getting published and setting up speaking engagements.
If your needs are broader, such industry-specific guidance may not matter.
For example, perhaps your needs are related to confidence building. Any successful entrepreneur can help you learn how to ditch your imposter syndrome and fully make the leap to focusing full time on your personal brand, no matter what their background or subject matter expertise.
4. Choose someone who can commit the time needed to be your mentor.
We’d all love to be mentored by Richard Branson, but he likely can’t commit the time.
Show your respect for the leaders you admire by not asking them to give up time you know they don’t have.
Plus, someone who can’t carve out a few hours a month for you isn’t someone you will learn much from, no matter their successes. Also, take into consideration such factors as travel schedules and time differences. If you’re in Seattle and your mentor lives in Paris, you will likely face challenges finding regular times to talk.
5. Ask someone with whom you already have a relationship.
Aside from the fact that Richard Branson is pretty busy, if you don’t already have a working relationship with him (read: you’re a stranger), he’s not likely to take you under his (personal jet) wing, even if you do find him inspiring.
Seek a mentor from your personal network instead. You’re more likely to find someone willing to take a genuine and personal interest in your success.
How to Ask Someone to be Your Mentor
Deciding on who you’d like to work with is only the first half of the equation. Once you choose a mentor, they have to choose you as their mentee.
This starts with approaching the potential mentor, strategically. You have to ask them to form such a partnership.
Asking a colleague you respect to be your mentor may feel like asking someone out on a date, but it doesn’t have to be nearly as stressful. Follow these three tips when asking someone to be your mentor:
1. Ask in person
If you’re worried someone will say ‘no’, it can be less intimidating to send an email. Yet, this more passive communication style can’t quite convey the value you would place on their guidance.
By asking in person, you may still hear a “no,” but they will likely be extremely grateful that you asked. If they do say ‘yes’, you’re already on a path to building a solid foundation.
2. Be specific about what you hope to get out of your mentor/mentee relationship
Being asked to be someone’s mentor can feel like a lot of pressure.
To earn that “yes” you want to hear, be specific about what you hope to gain from the relationship.
For example, don’t say, “I want to learn everything you know so I can build a six-figure personal brand.” Do say, “I’m inspired by how you made the transition from corporate CEO to inspirational coach. I’m just in the startup phase of building a life coaching business myself. I’d appreciate the chance to learn what you’d consider the keys to success are during this initial growth phase.”
One sounds a lot less intimidating (and time-consuming), doesn’t it?
3. Emphasize the mutually beneficial nature of this potential partnership
In the best mentor/mentee relationships, both parties can and do learn from one another. Maybe you’re hoping to learn how to scale your business. And, maybe you can teach them how to grow their following on social media. In such a relationship, the partnership becomes a truly valuable long-term relationship.
Final Advice: Stop. Collaborate and Listen.
Remember that the purpose of having a mentor is to learn from them.
Take your mentor’s advice (even when what they have to say isn’t what you want to hear).
It’s the challenges you face in life that build the resilience you need to succeed.
With a trustworthy, honest, and invested mentor to help you along the way, you’ll be armed with the knowledge and insights you need to take your six-figure personal brand to a seven-figure brand.
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