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8 Steps To Getting The Perfect Mentor For You

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Eric explains that mentors generally offer three things:

1) They give career guidance.

2) It’s not all about work. Mentors provide much needed emotional support when times get tough.

3) Mentors also often act like a role model, giving you something to emulate and aspire to.

Some people might say, “I don’t need to worry about all this. My company has a mentorship program.”

Yeah, too bad that program sucks.

Via Power Mentoring: How Successful Mentors and Proteges Get the Most Out of Their Relationships:

Unfortunately, recent research has revealed that those in formal mentoring programs often fail to deliver on their rosy promises, and the participants may be left helpless and disillusioned. Possible reasons for this include a shoddy formal mentoring program structure, a matchmaking system that mimics blind dates from hell, or simply inadequate resources or rewards to support these programs.

And what about your greater career? If you’re a star do you think your company is going to tell you when it’s time to move on to greener pastures?

You need objectivity and you need someone who can give you advice that’s valuable over the long haul.

Read more:

Eric explains how to pick a mentor:

I’ve done an entire post on selecting the best mentor for you. You can read thathere.

The quick and dirty version comes courtesy of Dan Coyle’s masterpiece The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills:

  1. Avoid Someone Who Reminds You of a Courteous Waiter
  2. Seek Someone Who Scares You a Little
  3. Seek Someone Who Gives Short, Clear Directions
  4. Seek Someone Who Loves Teaching Fundamentals
  5. Other Things Being Equal, Pick the Older Person

The research also shows it’s good to look for someone who has a resume that shows grit.

And, believe it or not, happier mentors are better mentors.

Read more:

So what do you say in that first email?

You still want to leverage the power of some kind of similarity to build a connection.

Wharton Professor Adam Grant notes that he’s much more likely to reply when people highlight uncommon commonalities in their emails to him.

What’s that mean? Ways you two are similar that aren’t obvious. And this has scientific underpinnings:

As the psychologist Robert Cialdini sums up the evidence from Influence, “Similarity literally draws people together.” In Give and TakeI elaborate on this principle to point out that similarities matter most when they’re rare. We bond when we share uncommon commonalities, which allow us to feel that we fit in and stand out at the same time.

So you establish some kind of common ground. The next thing to keep in mind is equally important:

Wasting a mentor’s (or potential mentor’s) time in any form is a mortal sin.

Not only is it annoying, it shows you lack basic skills. It screams to a mentor, “This person isn’t ready for your help.”

Writing a multi-page email to a very busy person doesn’t show you’re serious — it shows you’re insane.

So respect their time and start small. Asking good questions is a great way to build a relationship.

But the key word here is “good” questions.


Carve this in stone. Scrawl it in blood above your desk. Get a tattoo.

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In that first meeting, be on time, be polite, and brush your teeth. Also:

  1. Ask good questions. Good questions show you are smart and have done your homework, and make the mentor feel that they offer unique value.
  2. Other than asking good questions, shut up. Ryan says ”The point of an accomplishment mentor is not for you to give them your opinion.”
  3. Don’t ask for a job. This makes people feel awkward and undoes all the good work you’ve done so far.
  4. Be likable. Here’s more on making people like you, using Dale Carnegie’s classic advice and making good conversation.
  5. Again, never waste their time. Keep it short, hit your marks, create an impression you can build on and make an exit.

Read more:

Keep in touch:

Touching base is simple:

I used your advice by doing _____. Here’s how wonderfully it turned out _____. Thank you so much!

Do what they said, get results, and let them know they made a difference. This is what mentors want.

If they engage you can follow up with:

I (did my homework) and figured (really impressive next steps) would be _____ but I’d love your insight. Do you think (well-thought-out-strategy #1) or (well-thought-out-strategy #2) is better?

You want these interactions to be conversational back and forths, not one-offs you need to regularly hit with a conversation defibrillator to keep the relationship alive.

And try to reconnect with them in person or on the phone at least annually.

Read more:

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