How to Find a Mentor: Two Methods

by Don Smith

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I recently saw a post asking, “How can I find a millionaire to be my mentor?”

Every business or leadership book on the planet will tell you that the key to your success is to find a mentor. NO ONE reaches the top alone; you're not born with everything you need to know to be a massive success, we all need help.

The bad thing is that almost none of these books will tell you how to find those mentors and get them to help you. The answer is relatively simple, yet many get this wrong. You can't walk up to someone you just met, ask them to be your mentor, and expect that conversation to go well or get you the results you're after even if they say yes. You need to ease into it a little.

What to Look For in a Mentor

A mentor can be a manager, a leader in a group you are part of, or anyone you admire. The critical question you need to ask yourself is, has this person achieved similar results to what I want, do I like them, and do they give honest and helpful feedback? If not, that might not be the right person to be your mentor.

In the instance of the person asking for a millionaire to help them, they probably need to define that a little more. Most people can become a millionaire by putting enough money into their 401k each paycheck, but just because they are a millionaire doesn't necessarily mean they know how to achieve whatever goal you are wanting to achieve. You need to think through what it is you're really wanting before looking for someone to help.

Why Should a Mentor Help You?

Once you've identified someone you look up to that you want to mentor you, the first question you need to ask yourself is, “Why would this person want to help me?”

While you'd hope that a mentor would help just out of the goodness of their heart, that's rarely the case. They might answer some of your questions, but it probably won't turn into a full mentoring relationship without some work.

Good mentors are often busy people, so they can't help everyone who asks and asking puts them in an awkward situation anyway. I've had many mentors in my life, and there are two main ways I've found to get them to help you.

1. Paying For a Mentor

Paying someone to be your coach is the easiest way to get the help you would normally get from a mentor. Good ones are usually a little picky with who they work with though, so there may be an application process. They want to ensure that they are spending their time wisely and have a good shot at helping you achieve your goals.

Some people use the terms coach and mentor interchangeably as they often overlap, but technically speaking, they aren't the same. A coach is there to help you with one or more specific goals and is usually a shorter-term relationship than a more informal mentoring relationship. You can usually get right down to business with a coach and expect their full involvement as the relationship is clearly defined.

As a business coach, for example, there is a specific process I follow to help people achieve their goals, and once they've hit those goals, they often move on. Some I stay friends with and continue with a more informal mentoring relationship after the coaching period is up, but most get what they came for and go on about their lives.

2. Help Them & Stay Close to Find Informal Mentors

You can often find informal mentors in leadership positions at work, at church, hosting community events, coaching sports teams, and in professional organizations like Toastmasters.

I have paid for coaches in the past, but many of my mentors were people I admired who I helped regularly. When you do something for someone, the law of reciprocity usually kicks in, and they are often willing to do something in return.

Please don't do anything too extravagant that you wouldn't be happy to do without them returning the favor though; there are many people I've helped over the years that I barely got a thank you for, much less a mentor relationship. Help others without expectations of anything in return, and you may be surprised at how much of that does come back around.

Look for ways to go the extra mile to help and spend time with potential mentors, and you may find the mentoring role developing over time.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Most good mentors enjoy feeling like they are helping others, especially if they know it isn't a one-way street.

You likely won't need to formally ask for them to be your mentor if you do this right. I can only think of maybe two times I've asked that question yet I have had many mentors.

Hopefully, that helps with finding a mentor to help you. You'll probably want to find multiple mentors because no one person is going to know everything. I can name at least half a dozen people I still look up to as a mentor without even having to think about it. If you want to succeed you'll want to develop similar relationships.

About the Author 

Don Smith

Happily married with five kids, Smith owns a technology company, is the founder of this site, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and loves playing soccer, hiking, and mentoring.

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