Last night I attended a great class by Trevor Owens – founder of Lean Startup Machine (the metrics-driven startup competition). The topic of the SkillShare was ‘Case Studies on Finding World-Class Mentors’, and he gave great insight on the do’s and don’ts on finding and retaining your mentors. The key take-away point for me was adding value from day one, and knowing exactly what you want out of the mentorship.
For starters, a great way to find a mentor would be identifying someone ahead of you in your career path that you aspire to be. Another way would be asking peer(s)/professors who you look up to, which may be easier to connect with since you are already acquainted. Above all, don’t be perceived as annoying.
Some ways to get a mentor you may not have a connection with is hosting an event, blogging about them, or presenting them with an opportunity they cannot say ‘no’ to. Remember, you are asking for their advice and time. If you are good with dating, this should feel natural. But for socially awkward folks, you can’t just pop the question on the first date- it has to be a good fit.
After polling some of Trevor’s mentors, these were three signs that showed a person was not being a good mentee:
1) Poor follow-up
– Did you act on advice?
– Did you show them that you’ve improved?
– Did you take the constructive feedback & apply it?
2) Not curious enough
– Don’t be desperate
– If you want feedback, ask specific questions
– Show what you can do, do not just tell them
3) Not doing your homework
– Approaching someone without knowing their background is flat out wasting time ( “OH: You authored a book?!”)
– Proper due diligence. Goes without say to follow them on Twitter/read their blog, and be familiar with all they are involved with.
It’s also important to note that a mentor is not a ‘hand holding experience’, and you must add value from day one. Pump them up, and be proud to tell others that he/she is your mentor. Give praise when its due, and never hesitate to say ‘HEY, thanks for your mentorship’. Again, they are giving you the time, and it should be worthwhile. When you follow-up, provide insight what they are working on. Who knows, this could turn into a great friendship. Stay curious, and ask questions.
All in all, met some great people at the class, and listened to some cool stories on how others found their mentors. Thanks to Trevor for holding the class, and check out SkillShare to learn something new.
Stay weird, Get involved.