Having a business mentor is important for any new start up as we all need guidance and role models to learn from. We want to know how they did it, what they overcame and how they overcame it. We want them to impart their tips for success and to guide us through the decisions we face and the challenges we’ll meet along the way. But more than that, it’s just good to have a sounding board to bounce ideas off.
Finding a mentor however, can be a daunting prospect. Well, who do you ask and how do you ask them?
It’s important to firstly figure out what you want to get out of the mentorship. Be specific about the sort of help you need and clarify your expectations.
Make a short list of the people you would love to be your mentor. Think beyond your own industry as this will open up a whole new realm of ideas, opportunities and experience. Make your wish list and go for it. The possibility of Oprah taking the time out to be your mentor is pretty unlikely, so do try to make it slightly realistic, but do also aim high. If they so no, they say no and you move onto the next person on your list. It’s not personal! It’s also key to remember that you don’t have to have just one mentor. Perhaps just one mentor isn’t going to meet all of your needs so feel free to open yourself up to other influencers.
The trick is, you don’t want to email, write or call directly asking them to be your mentor. That’s just a bit weird. Firstly, they know nothing about you and you know nothing about them. It’s a lot to ask people to commit to and a bit like asking someone to be your boyfriend. It’s better to go about it in a more subtle way. Charlotte Hogg, CEO of the Bank of England suggests asking them if you can speak to them about x, as you would love to find out their views on y. From there you can build a relationship and let it organically turn into a mentorship.
Another good way to find mentors is to attend high profile networking events. People are more likely to be engaged and interested when spoken to face to face. Polish up your best elevator pitch (but don’t make it too rehearsed, you want to sound natural).
Be persistent, aim high and don’t come across as desperate; instead show that you’re passionate about what you do and are hungry to learn.