By Ryan Healy — Successful entrepreneurship usually includes a group of trusted mentors, according to Ben Casnocha, author of My Start up Life. But now that I’ve spent a few months in corporate life, it’s clear to me that having a group of mentors is important whether you work for yourself or for someone else.
However, the majority of people I know are not great at seeking out and developing these relationships. What I have learned in the past few months is that it’s easier than you think! Here are three things I have done that have helped me develop very rewarding relationships with mentors.
1. Find the right network
For twentysomethings, the easiest place to look is in your parent’s network. Take advantage of it because they’ve been developing these connections for years. Ask your parents if any of their friends or colleagues work in a field you are interested in.
If you are not lucky enough to have well connected parents, all is not lost. Networking groups are everywhere these days. MeetUp.com gives you a way to find people with similar interests. Or you can start a niche blog and comment on blog posts from field-related experts. Leave a few insightful comments and your foot is in the door to contacting them.
2. Reach out
Once you have made the first connection, the next step is simple. Reach out with a short email. Ask for a few pieces of advice. Assuming your contact replies, continue the conversation for a few days. Finally, ask if she is interested in meeting up for a quick lunch. Despite the ease of connecting online, face to face interaction can make a big difference in how quickly you make your mentor feel connected with you. At the very least, try to have a relatively long phone conversation to get to know each other.
3. Think in terms of frequency
After a face to face meeting and a few emails, you should be able to tell if your contact is a potential mentor or advisor. If she is, don’t be afraid to bug her! This is always the hardest part for me, but it’s the only way you can develop a good relationship. Send an occasional email or call with a casual, not extremely important, but honest question once in a while. If she is truly annoyed by this, then it’s probably time to seek advice elsewhere. But for the most part, I have found people genuinely like to help, especially older folks. The more contact you have, the stronger the relationship will be and the more interest your advisor will take in your career.
Finding a true mentor can take a long time, but almost everyone will offer advice and guidance if asked politely. Corporate cultures that encourage collaboration between young and old are absolutely necessary, but the responsibility of developing these relationships is in the hands of young workers. Reach out to someone. Take a chance. The details will work themselves out.
Ryan Healy’s blog is Employee Evolution.
Other Brazen Careerist posts on mentoring: