Wondering how to get a mentor? Here are six pro-tips to finding a great mentor so that you can achieve your dreams.
Are great leaders born or made?
If you’re a college student just stepping out into the professional world or a middle-manager looking to advance, you’re probably wondering how to become a great leader.
I believe that the single best thing you can do to jumpstart or level-up your career is to seek out (and act upon!) the wisdom of a mentor.
Great leaders became great because someone took the time to invest in them, as I talked about in my previous blog. But asking a busy, successful person to freely invest their time in you has the potential to feel seriously awkward. But never fear! Here are six ways to be the kind of mentee that no mentor would pass up.
1. Start with who you know.
Write down a detailed description of your ideal mentor. What skills do they possess? What experience do they have? What networks are they connected to? When you’re looking for a mentor, don’t pick the most well-known in your business. Be realistic about who you can get access to. When I was starting my speaking career, for example, I knew that Tony Robbins wasn’t my best bet for a mentor. Instead, I found a speaker whose content inspired me but who wasn’t a household name.
Think in terms of your first and second-degree connections on LinkedIn. Who do you personally know has your dream job? If you don’t know anyone, who do your parents, friends, or coworkers know? Your chances are significantly higher of finding someone to mentor you if you have someone who can introduce you.
2. Wait until after their spike.
The best mentors won’t be in the middle of the busiest, most successful part of their career. If you want to be a best-selling author, don’t reach out to the authors on the best-seller stand today—find them after their spike, and call the people who had a best-seller two years ago.
Whether you have your sights set on becoming a pro-athlete, a stockbroker or a chief security officer, look for a mentor who is seasoned in their field and can share more time, wisdom and insight with you.
3. Set up a 15-minute call—and stick to 15 minutes.
Once you’ve determined a couple of people who could be a good mentor, reach out to them and ask to set up a 15-minute call.
After someone agrees to talk to you, do your homework before you talk. This is critical! Read the content on their website, their LinkedIn profile and articles they’ve written so that you don’t ask them basic questions Alexa could answer. Then, write out three questions that you want to ask them. Here are some good starting questions:
- Who are industry experts you respect? What do they do differently than everyone else?
- When it comes to your leadership style, what books or people have had the biggest impact on you and why?
- If you were able to talk to yourself when you were my age or in my position, what advice would you give yourself—when it comes to business, relationships and self-development?
- What are three hard things that you do to be successful that other people aren’t willing to do?
When the time comes for your call, ask your three questions, and be sure to record the call or take diligent notes. Before you hang up, thank them and ask if in one to two months, they’d be willing to do another 15-minute call with you. If you actually kept the first call to 15 minutes, they’ll most likely say yes to the second.
It goes without saying to follow-up and make the call. Spend the first five minutes of the second call telling them that you’ve done what they suggested (if you read a book they recommended or talked to someone else they said to reach out to), and spend the next 10 minutes asking two more questions. Repeat until millionaire status.
4. Expect to work.
Every year, I get a number of calls from people who want to be a speaker. They usually ask me a few questions, and I always tell them three things they need to do to begin their career. 90% of people never follow-up again, so if someone calls back and has actually done those three things, I know they’re serious, and I tell them that I have time for the next call.
At the end of the day, it won’t do you any good to simply have a mentor: You have to act on their advice and do the work. If you do, opportunities will be endlessly in your favor. If you’re in a corporate setting and have built a mentoring relationship with an executive, when the fast track for leadership comes up, your name will go in the hat—not the employee who never bothered to reach out to current leaders.
Caroline, an amazing previous employee of ours at The Zimmerman Group, started her career as an intern at a magazine. There were several other interns, but she chose to attend all of the editorial meetings and raise her hand whenever they asked for a volunteer to write a story. After her internship ended, she was the only intern to be kept on as a freelance writer—with her own column! Three weeks later, her boss switched roles, and Caroline took over. Her story goes to show that hard work and eagerness to take on projects will take you a long way.
5. Say thank you.
If anyone has given you their time, send a thank-you email at a minimum. (But you get serious bonus points if you send a handwritten note!) Either way, include one thing in your note specifically from the conversation.
And don’t just thank the person you spoke with on the phone: if you communicated with their assistant in any capacity, thank them too. If you genuinely express your thanks to the person who manages your mentor’s email and calendar, you’ll be doing the right thing—and you may be more likely to get your next call.
6. Embrace give-give mentorship.
If mentorship is a rope and you’re each on either side, the goal is to meet in the middle. You don’t want to be at the top, because nobody knows everything. And you don’t want the be at the end, because everyone knows something. All that to say: make it valuable for your mentor to spend time on you.
When I was interested in speaking in the college market 17 years ago, I went to the most successful college speaker I knew, Dr. Will Keim. He began mentoring me about touring on the college market. But it was synergistic. In return for his 20+ years experience, I brought an entrepreneurial perspective on speaking that he needed to help run his business more efficiently. This is why our 15-year partnership worked so well.
It’s highly unlikely that someone two or three levels above you is going to take you under their wing and share all of their knowledge, customer base, and experience with you for nothing in return. What do you bring to the table? Never forget the value you bring to every relationship, and never expect to receive without giving anything in return.
This could be as simple as emailing your mentor industry-specific articles on a new cutting-edge technology, and saying “saw this and thought of you!” Whatever it is you have to share, give freely and often—and never keep score. Some of my early mentors have become lifelong friends because we both gave.
If you’re looking for a more structured and comprehensive exploration of your goals and future, check out my VIP Days designed for people like you. Right now, I’m offering a limited number of discovery calls for those interested in spending a day with me. Click here to learn more!
So: Are great leaders born or made?
My answer: Neither—they’re guided by mentors.
As a speaker and author, Curtis Zimmerman has impacted over one million people with his life-changing messages and award-winning programs. Curtis is an expert at transforming organizations by inspiring individuals to live their lives at performance level.
Want to be inspired? Check out his podcast The Next 24 Hours.