While many people decide to wing it and learn the hard way when building their businesses, you should trust me when I say having a mentor in the form of somebody much more experienced and knowledgeable than you can drastically increase your likelihood of success.
Having a mentor is good — but having the right mentor is incredible.
When you’re putting together a list of successful people you may potentially approach with the intention or hope of starting a mentor-mentee relationship, do your research. Make it a point to be sure you’ve clearly targeted the specific people you’d like to learn from. Here are five simple things to look for to help you find the right mentor:
1. Look for Someone Dominating an Industry You’re Passionate About
If I were an aspiring tech entrepreneur, I may be able to learn some things from a successful real estate entrepreneur — but not nearly as much as I’d learn from somebody who is crushing tech. This seems obvious, but many people settle for a successful person they already know. While such a person’s advice is likely sound in their own industry, it may not always be applicable to yours.
2. Look for Someone With a Similar Upbringing or Situation
If I were coming from a poor family, I would learn much more from a fellow entrepreneur who also came from a similar scenario than from one who came from money. Their experiences and the lessons they learned will likely guide me through experiences I’m currently having or am about to have. At the very least, try to find parallels between a mentor’s situation and your own so that you can learn in a context that’s most helpful.
3. Look for Someone Who Has Seen Both Success and Failure
Many entrepreneurs have failed at things before — some on a grand scale. While this isn’t sexy when you’re a newbie, you have no idea how much more powerful this person’s advice will be — especially if they bounced back after a major failure. While experiences with failure are not necessities for a great mentor, they are certainly a huge bonus.
4. Don’t Target a Huge Celebrity
Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing inherently bad about a celebrity’s advice or guidance. However, people who are very much in the public eye are constantly inundated with questions just like yours, and the persistence it would take to stand out from the crowd early on in your journey could be perceived negatively. If you’re going to try the land a celebrity mentor, you’ll need to build significant traction prior to attempting it. Your accomplishments — not your persistence — are what make you stand out enough to be noticed.
5. Look for Someone You Highly Respect
No matter who you target, you should go after people you really respect. How much do you think you’re capable of learning from somebody you don’t respect? How enthusiastic will you be about that person’s advice? Make sure you respect a prospective mentor enough to know that you’ll be excited to totally knock their socks off.
Even if you never actually establish a mentor-type relationship with a person, you can still benefit from closely following their experience and learning from their decisions, but if you follow these five simple tips, the mentor you land will be a lot more beneficial for you.