1) Skip celebrities and dig for the anonymous
In our platform-driven world, we assume that the best mentors are going to be the most famous ones. There are two problems with that:
a) Famous people are likely very busy running the team/organization that garnered them such popularity in the first place and won’t have much time for you.
b) Famous people won’t know how to help you in your particular situation.
The more successful someone is, the higher the chance that their perspective is different than yours. When you compare the size of their organization to yours, is it similar? Is it even in the same universe? How about their personality? The way they approach problems? Do they have a similar vision for their life? Most likely not.
Instead, look for mentors who are a few steps ahead of you. Maybe they know what it’s like to raise teenagers. Or they’ve been in management for 10 years now and you’re just starting. These people are everywhere, working hard, growing their life, and they have the answers you need. And they likely have a little extra time to mentor someone who’s teachable, humble, and gracious (that’s you, right?).
2) Begin with an ask to pick their brain for 30 minutes
You’d be surprised how many people are open to sharing their wisdom.
So when you reach out via email, text, or in-person at the office, make it short, sweet, and give it a definitive time frame. 30 minutes doesn’t sound like much (it isn’t to most people).
Something like this: “Hey! I’ve noticed that you do X well, would you be up for letting me pick your brain for 30 minutes sometime on the phone?” Or, “I am trying to discern the next step for me in X career/life stage. Since you’ve been doing this a while, could I ask for some advice sometime? 30 minutes over coffee maybe?”
And if they agree to meet in person, buy them coffee/lunch. They’re paying with their hard-earned time, and you’re paying for a treat. This helps to begin a mutual relationship.
And after the 30 minutes, you’ll know if this person is worth more of your time. Don’t keep them longer than you asked, but if there was good chemistry, a great follow-up question is: “This has been helpful. Would you be open to chatting in the future if I have any other follow-up questions?” Hopefully, you’ve communicated well, protected their time, and have shown a spirit of teachability.
3) Follow-up with a thank you note and keep in touch
If they agree and exchange contact information with you, then you are free to continue the mentoring relationship. Congratulations! Most people will never know the joy of finding the right mentor for the exact season of life that they’re in. But you aren’t like most people. If you want to be mentored bad enough, eventually you’ll find the right people. Keep digging.
One last thing: Different seasons of life need different mentors. Sometimes the only thing holding you back from growth isn’t your hard work, it’s the wisdom for what you need in the next season.