While there is much to be said for the fantastic power that failure has to teach us what works and what doesn’t, failure does take time to work through and process. Not all of us have time to learn our mistakes the hard way.
Instead, finding a willing mentor can help you walk on water, figuratively, and skip some of the pitfalls of doing things the hard way. A much simpler and easier way to be successful in life and business is to find others who have already made the mistakes you were about to make and learn from them.
You can hunt for them in business or hotel elevators, conferences, and at marketing or networking events. Attend activities in your niche, and once you spot some possibilities, offer your services to them as well – in return for their guidance and support.
You may be surprised to learn who is willing to take the time to teach you if you just ask. They will be willing to do so because, chances are, you remind them of themselves. You may also have something to teach them as well, and valuable insights to offer their business.
Finding a mentor
Now that you are pretty sure you need one, the next question is…where to find them?
I have friends who have met their mentors through university training programs and extra courses with guest speakers. I’ve met those who have had mentors pull them into their inner circle from the first time they met at a conference or seminar. I’ve also heard of those who’ve gone after their mentors in elevators, making them the proverbial “elevator pitch” in the ride down from the top floor, and walked away with the unique opportunity to learn from industry giants.
No matter how you plan to do find them, bear in mind that you will have to capture their attention and imagination – fast. Be ready. Show them your eagerness to learn and express what you can offer them as well. Don’t only focus on what you want out of the partnership.
Making the most of the opportunity
While you may be tempted to ask a bunch of questions right off the bat – don’t. The best thing you can do is just watch and learn. Much like an internship that a student or new graduate realizes will secure fast and relevant experience to help them survive, you should treat the experience as a head down and working one, soaking up as much knowledge as possible that will help you make headway in your own pursuits.
Offer to complete tasks that are perhaps boring, but vital to the success of the business. Try to get a hand in as many different tasks as possible.
Similar to job shadowing, it’s easiest to learn from a mentor at their own pace. Observe – and even take notes – of what works well for them and what techniques they employ.
Wait for your mentor to warm up and start offering some of their inside tips on their business. If you are an entrepreneur, you may get tips from them regarding what they think would work well for your unique selling technique or business as well.
Leaving a good impression
It goes without saying that you should aim to stay on good terms with everyone in the organization, as well as any of your mentors business associates. Stay upbeat and friendly at all costs – referrals from your mentor and other associates can really get you places down the road.
No matter how you meet, and how long you work together, it’s always best to leave a very formal and professional final impression.
When parting ways, work to retain professional contact details and stay in touch on a regular basis, this can easily be accomplished through LinkedIn and by attending regular industry events – if only to say hello and remind them of your face. You never know when you may need your mentor’s help with a project or challenge, or vice-versa.
Send professional letters thanking them for their time. If you got on well, you may also want to request a letter of recommendation or professional recommendation on business networking platforms like LinkedIn as well – be sure to return the favor if needed.
Remember, watch and learn from their daily habits and professional decisions. If you are keen to learn, and take their advice seriously, you can avoid many of the heartaches that other professionals will be stuck wallowing in. Instead of doing things the hard way, learn from a mentor’s missteps, and, of course, don’t repeat them.