How to find a mentor steps 6-12

Note: this is the second part in a two part series on how to get a great mentor. You can find the first part here.

Now that you’ve scheduled a meeting with someone who could possibly become a mentor for you (steps 1-5) there are a few things to do to help ensure that the first meeting goes well and successfully develops into a mentor/mentee relationship (steps 6-12, below).

6) Before your meeting, do as much research as possible on your potential mentor. Learn about her career, and if you can, her personal life too.

7) Before the meeting craft thoughtful, open ended questions to ask your potential mentor. For the sake of example, I’m still assuming you want to do HIV/AIDS relief work in South Africa – of course, you should sub in whatever topic you’re interested in. A few of my favorites are:

  • How did you get into working with HIV/AIDS issues in South Africa?
  • If you were starting over, what would you do exactly the same? What would you do differently?
  • What mistakes do you see people making when they start down this line of work?
  • How can I follow in your footsteps?
  • What books do you suggest I read?
  • Who else do you suggest I speak with?

8) The day of the meeting, dress professionally and arrive early. You want to show your potential mentor that you truly value and respect her time. Throughout the conversation you should aim to spend about 80% of your time listening and taking notes.

9) At the end of the meeting, try your best to pick up the tab as a demonstration of your appreciation. Thank your potential mentor and ask if it’s ok if you contact her in a few months to report on your progress.

10) Once the meeting is over send a thank you email, followed by a hand written thank you card.

Not everyone you meet will be suitable as a potential mentor. You want to look for someone who you respect and who you have a natural chemistry with. I have met many speakers who are far more successful than I am, who I do not want to have as a mentor.

If, after the first meeting you are not interested in having this person as your mentor that is completely cool. Simply repeat steps 2-10 until you find someone who meets you needs.

If, after your first meeting you feel as though this person would make a great mentor, then continue on to steps 11 and 12 to help develop a successful relationship.

11) Begin following their advice, even if it seems counter-intuitive. When Jean-Pierre told me that in order to be a successful speaker I should start writing a monthly newsletter, that didn’t make sense to me, but I did it anyways. Now, several years later I understand the wisdom behind his guidance and I’m glad I followed it.

More importantly, following your mentor’s advice will allow them to work with you and will show them that you’re taking them seriously.

12) Finally, once you have spent a few months following their advice, contact them again asking to get together and repeat steps 7-12.

A good mentor is one of your most valuable assets. They can accelerate your success, help you avoid speed bumps, introduce you to key players, and act as a confidante. By taking the time to find someone who is a good match for you, and then thoughtfully cultivating the relationship, you will be making a tremendous investment in yourself.

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