After reading the post about the 12 reasons you NEED to have a mentor, a reader asked a great question in the comments about how to find the right mentor.
Now that we know we need a mentor. How do we go about getting one and choosing the right one?
As you can probably guess, it’s all about the relationships. But I’m also going to tell you how to target the relationships you want to cultivate.
How to choose a mentor
One of the first things you should do when you start any job is to identify who the decision makers are. The next thing you need to do is locate the influencers (i.e. those people in the inner circle of the various decision makers). Once you do that, you need to figure out which influencer might be willing to coach you up and introduce you to some of the decision makers.
You might think that sounds like a lot of work. It is. But it’s also worth it. Let’s break this down for a second and assume you ignore this advice. You just keep your head down, work hard, and avoid playing into the office politics. Let’s also suppose you, an above average performer, and an average performing colleague go after the same promotion spot. Who do you think gets the promotion? The guy who does great work but nobody knows anything about or the guy who does an okay job who everyone loves? The guy everyone loves will get the promotion in this scenario every single time. Once you pass the point of minimum viable product, the experience you create for others will trump anything you can put down in a PowerPoint deck.
Why? Because working with someone you don’t like, or even someone you don’t know, isn’t nearly as fun as working with a person you like being around. It seems really simple, but this is how decisions get in business get made.
How do you lay the foundation for a relationship with influencers at your company?
After you have a sense of who the key players are, you need to figure out how to get access and start to build a relationship. You can do this in a few different ways, but one of my favorites is to interview them. Asking one of the higher-ups for an interview achieves multiple goals at the same time, aside from stroking the ego of the interviewee:
- It shows you’re not a timid wallflower afraid to speak to another adult just because of the title under that person’s name on a business card.
- It shows you grasp the need to have a big-picture understanding of how the business operates
- It gets you a one-on-one opportunity to talk about you background, goals, and objectives
- It gives you the chance to see a “real-life” example of how someone moved up in the company and can help you craft your success plan
Everyone loves to talk about themselves and you need as much information as possible so this works out quite well.
Another great way to establish key relationships is to lead an effort close to the heart of the influencer you want to get to know. Whether this is leading a community service activity, organizing a company sports team, or negotiating a team rate for some other activity, you have a breadth of options to get to know the right people at your company.
You just have to know going down this path that it will take you some time to figure out the best fit for you.
Or You Can Go With Door Number 2
You could also just pay for a mentor. I remember Jon Morrow, who runs one of my favorite blogs (his is about boosting blog traffic), saying the fastest way to get a great mentor to take you under his wing is to swipe your credit card.
I know that can be a bit of a turn-off, but here’s the thing. Time is one of your most valuable assets, so what would happen to the person who continuously gives away their most precious possession for free? That person ends up broke. I gotta tell you – I’ve been broke, and it’s not fun.
You should also think about the value you get out of the relationship and consider it an investment in yourself. If a mentor or coach charged you $750/month, but that mentorship helps you double your $80K salary to $160K in a year, look at the return on investment: $80,000/($750 *12) equals a return on investment of about 888%. You can sign me up for that any day of the week. It’s ALL about value.
Speaking of sign ups, you should check out this free cheatsheet on managing your professional network, especially if you go with the organic relationship building strategy above: