1. Know your WHY. Before you can seek out your perfect mentor, you must first decide WHY you need a mentor. In other words, where do you need the most guidance? Do you need help with managing your financials or raising money? Are you looking for someone who can provide actionable advice on how to scale your business? Or maybe you just need someone who can provide a validating ear for day-to-day business operations. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to know why you need a mentor before you start seeking one out.
2. Look within. Once you determine why you need a mentor, you must then find them. First look within your existing social circle and/or professional network for someone who might fit your need (e.g., a former boss, sister of a friend, a past colleague, etc.). If you’re unable to find a good match within your own network, start branching out by attending local meetups and professional networking events.
3. Be casual. Approaching someone about becoming your mentor can be an intimidating experience. Start casual and remember that it doesn’t have to be a formal invite. A simple email asking to get coffee can be a great way to start a lasting mentor/mentee relationship. Perhaps you know their great accomplishments but that is different then working with someone, it ultimately has to be someone you want to spend time with and just like dating you might not always be the right match.
4. Give and Take. Mentorship is about more than just meeting up for coffee once a week. Done right, a mentor/mentee relationship should be an ongoing relationship that is built on trust and provides a safe environment for you to express your private concerns, ask questions and receive actionable advice. Some entrepreneurs like to have a structured relationship with a regular meeting schedule, while others prefer to have a less formal relationship – it’s really whatever works best for both the mentor and the mentee.
5. Never stop exploring. You don’t have to have just one mentor! I’ve had numerous mentors throughout my entrepreneurial career and they have all been an invaluable resource for me as I’ve grown my businesses. Some have been with me from the beginning and others I have sought out based on a specific situation. Also, like most relationships, it’s normal for a mentor/mentee relationship to go through phases or naturally wind down as your business stabilizes. Having multiple mentors will allow you to maintain a stable level of support regardless of a specific relationship status.
Guest post courtesy of Jayna Cooke, CEO of Chicago-based EVENTup, the largest online marketplace for event venues, as well as one of the first employees of Groupon and a (former) key player at Echo Global Logistics.