Community is important when running a business. Without the support of peers and customers, you’re a ship without a sail. I’ve been part of masterminds for several years. Masterminds are fantastic for group support. I’ve also worked directly with paid coaches who taught me a certain skill. My favorite type of people to take advice from thus far are mentors.
There’s a slight difference between a mentor and a coach. A coach is someone you work with to teach you something specific usually for a set amount of time. Coaches can be insanely valuable when you can’t figure out a problem in your business because their expertise can drastically lower the learning curve.
A business mentor, on the other hand, is someone who helps you develop overall. They can offer general guidance, support, and encouragement. I’ve found that my mentors have been good at helping me come up with new business ideas based on my skills and personality type. They also push me outside of my comfort zone. The mentor to mentee relationship can be long- or short-term.
Here’s how to find and work with a mentor who rocks:
Give, give, and give some more.
There are experts in various fields that will mentor you for a fee. Top people in an industry may offer an exclusive one-on-one service for other professionals trying to reach their level of success. I haven’t paid to work with a mentor so my experiences have been less formal. However, I can call on them when I have a question and I’ve gained a ton of insight from their guidance. This type of relationship doesn’t miraculously appear out of thin air. All relationships are transactional. There’s got to be something in it for both parties.
I’ve made an effort to align myself with people I aspire to be by offering something of value. I didn’t have money to invest in a high-end coach or mentor, so I tried to learn and build relationships in different ways. In some cases, I interned for free to meet people. I showed up to industry events or gave of myself in other ways that could be helpful. I’m a giver in my personal and professional life (sometimes to a fault). The giving mindset has helped me form relationships that morphed into mentoring.
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If you don’t have the cash to work with a mentor right now, think of other ways you can be of service. Don’t go into it with the only goal being getting something in return. Build authentic relationships. Opportunities grow from your effort.
Look for experience, reviews, and accolades.
There are a lot of people selling a lot of services online. Not all of them are right for you. If you do decide to pay for a mentor, make sure you’re working with one that will give you a return on your investment.
Reviews from other people who have worked with the mentor isn’t always necessary. People who have mentored me don’t actively sell a mentor service so they don’t have reviews. Instead, look at their experience, awards, or accolades to determine if they’re someone you want to work with. Income, brand recognition, and accomplishments are enough to show me that someone is trustworthy.
There are even successful people who run businesses offline that can be helpful. Don’t discount the knowledge of people who’ve run businesses for decades who have a less active online presence.
A mentor can only help you as much as you help yourself. People helping others like to see action and results. Results show that the advice they’re giving is put to use and the time spent is worthwhile. Commit to the process whether you’re getting mentored or coached. Follow through with suggestions and show that you value their effort. A successful mentor to mentee relationship takes two. Be sure to do your part.