One of the most common pieces of advice new business owners and professionals will hear is to find a good mentor. A mentor, someone with a similar career trajectory or industry experience, can guide you through the challenges and pitfalls of your chosen path, and introduce you to valuable connections that can help you down the road.
As with any relationship, the one between mentor and mentee does not simply happen overnight. In order to take advantage of the many benefits of mentorship, you must first ask someone for his or her guidance. Noam Kostucki, a serial entrepreneur and executive coach, discovered that even if you believe you've found the perfect mentor, that person may not be interested.
"When I set up my business, I really struggled [to find a mentor]," said Kostucki, co-author of "Seek to Keep" (self-published, 2014). "For six months, I didn't get a single meeting. I had a track record of hundreds of emails I never received a reply to, dead-end phone calls and meetings with improbable mentors." [How to Choose a Good Mentor]
When Kostucki finally did find a mentor, he realized that it was only through his persistent efforts that he was able to discover the right match. He and co-author Lujie Chen, co-founder of entrepreneurship non-profit organization Kairos Society ASEAN, outlined four steps for asking someone for mentorship.
Identify potential mentors. Create a spreadsheet of people who have at least one characteristic that makes them potential mentors. For instance, maybe they have your ideal job. Look into your personal network, and research influencers in your field (practitioners, experts, bloggers, journalists, speakers, authors, business owners, etc.). Sort and prioritize these potential mentors, placing the ones you are closest to and feel the most natural connection with at the top.
Research your top mentors. Learn everything you can about the top few candidates on your list by visiting their website, reading articles or books they've written, following their social media accounts, and watching their videos. You can start establishing a connection by sharing or commenting on their posts and content.
Make contact. Reach out to the first 10 people on your list, starting from the top, and tell them what you want to talk about. For example, you might want to learn how they got the type of job they have, hear their experience in that industry, get their advice on the next big thing in the industry or better understand their work. Ask them for a specific amount of time to talk over the phone, meet for coffee or grab lunch. If they agree to a conversation or meeting and they're a good match, continue the conversation, and ask to meet again. If it doesn't work out, ask for people they can introduce you to who also have the characteristics you're looking for.
Repeat the process. Whether the people on your list respond to you or not, continue to reach out to potential mentors, and keep growing your list.
Originally published on Business News Daily.