Thurgood Marshall had Charles Hamilton Houston. Alexander Hamilton had George Washington. Oprah had Maya Angelou. First Black Supreme Court Justice, first Secretary of the Treasury, and billionaire business woman and philanthropist. These extraordinary people all had mentors. You should have one too. Here’s why:
1. A mentor is a valuable sounding board. Planning to fire off a letter, check with your mentor. Thinking about taking a promotion that will require you to move several hundred miles from friends and family? Discuss the pros and cons with your mentor.
2. A mentor can save you time and money. A mentor has endured and conquered the problems you’re facing. He or she can tell you what you should do in a particular situation. That insight could save you thousands of dollars or hundreds of hours trying to figure it out for yourself.
3. A mentor can help you advance professionally and personally. With some mentoring relationships, your mentor will become acutely aware of your strengths and talents. When he or she learns of a great position that would be a great fit for you, who do you think she’s going to call? A mentor will also help you identify blind spots in several areas of your life. A mentor who is helping you start a business might ask you why she receives emails from you on Saturdays and Sundays when you should be resting and spending time with your family.
So how do you get a mentor? It’s easier than you think.
1. Find someone you admire, living or dead, and read everything he or she ever wrote. Watch videos and listen to recordings about the person. Once you do a deep dive into your hero or heroine, you will learn how the person thinks. When you have a problem, you’ll be able to ask, “What would _________________do?” “How would ___________________handle this issue?”
2. Be sneaky. There’s a young woman in my life who calls me every two or three months to discuss her business. Conversations go something like this, “Miss Connie, what do you think I should do about…….” She never asked me to be her mentor. She invited me to lunch one day a couple of years ago. Since then, I’ve been mentoring her as she builds a website and starts a business. She doesn’t contact me for technical advice. It’s more for advice on how to handle the various contractors that she is managing. She respects my gray hair.
3. Ask, but bring something to the table. Entrepreneur and speaker Lisa Nichols wrote in her book, Abundance Now, that she needed the wisdom of a business attorney who was speaking at a conference. She agreed to make copies for him, grab coffee and run errands in exchange for a couple of minutes of his time between sessions. You already know what a mentor can do for you. Before you approach her about mentoring you, think of what you can do for her. You have some talent or skill that is beneficial to the mentor you’re considering.
Keep in mind that you’re not looking for perfection in a mentor. You’re looking for someone with talent, skill or experience that will help you as you pursue your goals. Your retired neighbor could help you with your public speaking. The leader of your life group could help you with your wellness goals. The co-worker who seems to always get promotions might be willing to share her secret sauce. Getting a mentor is in some respects like reading a book. You learn valuable lessons on someone else’s time and nickel.
How could a mentor help you?