How to Create & Maximize a Mentor Relationship

“Mentor” is a buzzword right now. And like so many other brilliant concepts taken over by popularity, it’s thoughtlessly tossed around.
It’s become this shiny object. We’re not super clear on what it is, we don’t know how to use it, but we really want it. Take a step back. That word has some weight. It’s not something you can just throw down on a table and walk away from.
You have to dig into it. There’s a lot of meat to it. And for a budding entrepreneur or up and coming go-getter, a solid mentorship can be the key to accelerating to the next level. Unfortunately, beyond working to utilize the amazing mentors in my life, I don’t have a lot of value to add to the creating and maximizing a mentor relationship today.
In order to fill the void and throw down some solid advice, I reached out to one of my mentor, Joon Han. As a genuine give-getter, he’s perfect to speak to the Positive Impact community. Added bonus, he works with countless social entrepreneur every year.
Exactly the type of person you want helping guide your path.
Here’s how he breaks down what a good mentor – protégé relationship looks like:

Creating a Solid Mentor – Protégé Relationship

Ideas borrowed from Joon Han – Ultimate Go Giver

Establishing a Focus

A mentor won’t do you much good unless you know what you need. Before you go out looking for someone to guide you, figure out where you want to go. A little soul searching if you will.
Here’s a starter list of questions to ask yourself:
  • What goals are you trying to achieve?
  • What areas are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
  • What areas do you need guidance?
  • How well do you know your industry?
Leverage a mentorship to help fill in the blanks, balance your weaknesses and offer perspective. Most likely you will need support in multiple areas. It’s not uncommon to have more than one mentor.

Finding Mentors

Use your focus as a roadmap. Cross your needs with what a potential mentor would look like. If you need more industry knowledge, you are looking for an experienced businessperson in your industry. If you need help with another aspect of your business, such as marketing or hiring solid team members, you can find mentors outside your niche.
A mentor doesn’t always mean someone much older. They just need to be far enough along in their journey they can offer beneficial perspective on your challenges. That being said, a successful business owner who has been running their company for a long time can offer greater perspective on entrepreneurship as a whole.
While a mentor can come from anywhere in your life, here are a few suggested places:
  • Business / Industry Specific Associations
  • High Quality Networking Events
  • Trainings and Seminars
Many business associations have parent organizations and child organizations. A great example is AD2, a club for marketing professionals under 32. AD2 is directly connected to the parent organization, whose name varies by city. San Diego’s parent organization is SDX, a premiere marketing organization for agencies and publishers.
I happen to know several SDX members more than willing to offer insight to upcoming marketers in the industry.  Why? It’s essential to creating a thriving marketing industry in their hometown. Secondly, they started in their career at some point. Someone helped them along. It’s time to return the favor.
For all my social entrepreneurs, checkout Junto Global. Their entire goal is to create a human platform for entrepreneurs to connect and grow.
If you are at a lost, don’t despair. Reach out to your network to see who is on the same path you are. That’s a great place to start. And from there, start building your network. As you do, keep an eye out for potential mentors. Remember, this isn’t an overnight process.
Check out my guide to the types of mentors you need in your life.

 

Establish the Relationship

You’re not going to meet someone and two minutes into the conversation blurt out, “will you mentor me!” That would be awkward. Don’t be awkward.
A good rule of thumb is to build a relationship. After you first meet them, create a social follow up meeting. Coffee works for some people. Personally, I love food. It’s a rare exception when I turn down a good meal. I stick to lunches (and prefer to be invited to a good luncheon).
Here you are just building a relationship. This is key. Learn more about them: experiences, strengths, struggles, successes and failures. Once you get to know them, you can better gauge which characteristic will best help you on your journey.
Then comes the formal part. You need to ask them to mentor you. Here is an example presentation:
I really admire how you have {insert trait}. You have so many great characteristics, but I think I can learn a lot from {insert trait}. Would it be ok if we pursued the type of relationship where you help me grow in {specific} area?

 

Give it a Time Frame

Humans fundamentally like things to be defined. It’s why we created the box. Even entrepreneurs appreciate boundaries. When establishing this relationship, build in parameters. Start by identifying a time frame.
Knowing how long you are going to be on the hook is important. As is knowing the frequency. Define up front if you will be meeting monthly, quarterly or twice a year.

It’s a Relationship

Just because you set a timeframe doesn’t mean your mentor will walk out of your life. At least, we hope not. While the relationship might not be as formal as when you started, most likely they will be there for you to lean on during challenges in the future.
Hopefully you’ve gained a few tactical steps to start the path toward a meaningful mentor relationship. It’s good to have different mentors all throughout your life.