Preface from Joel:
It’s very rare that I ever do guest posts here on Impossible, but this one is particularly important to me.
I think mentorships & apprenticeships are the best ways to supercharge your results in business & life and it’s what got me started doing what I’m doing.
In 2010, after I got laid off at UPS, I took an entry-level job at a tiny marketing firm in Indianapolis. I made barely any money, but I took the gig because it was a small company and I knew I could interface with the owner and use the opportunity to learn as much as I could. It was unusual route, but I figured that I could get more out of optimizing for opportunity rather than trying to negotiate over a few thousands dollars a year when Starbucks was still reluctant to hire me.
If I choose the standard route, I would have gotten an entry level job and worked my way up with a 3% raise every year.
Instead, because I decided to optimize for opportunity rather than revenue, I ended up getting BOTH. I tripled my salary and became the marketing director of the company I was at in 18 months – before leaving to manage the online advertising for Camping World. And, I’m great friends with the owner of the marketing company that gave me my start.
That doesn’t’ happen any other way than apprenticeship.
A few years ago, I started getting emails from a kid named Brian Kidwell. I get a lot of emails for coffee and a lot of requests, but Brian’s stood out from the rest. We agreed to meet for coffee and after a couple of times, he asked if we could meet regularly to talk about online marketing and other projects he was working on and had some questions about.
I’m typically slammed with projects of my own and say no to these requests on a regular basis, but I was so impressed with how Brian approached me that I said yes and talked with him from time to time about several projects. Over time, it grew from being occasional coffee or meetups to him working with me regularly on projects here at Impossible.
As we’ve worked on projects, I’ve become more and more confident that mentorships is an underutilized strategy to turbo charge any and everything you’re working on.
I wanted to write a post on it, but I was so impressed with Brian’s strategy & thinking behind his approach to me that I asked him to share exactly why and how he went about it in the way that he did. So that’s what this is.
If you want to be able to supercharge your results in business & life – building a network and getting a mentor is key. This post will show you just how to find one just like that.
— Take It Away Brian —
How to Find a Mentor: The 3,200 Year Old Proven Strategy To Supercharge Your Life
Table of Contents
Mentorships are one of the greatest life hacks of all time.
And when I say life hack I don’t mean the get something for nothing kind. It’s going to take work, but it’s worth it.
If you want to catapult yourself ahead in life, find someone that’s already where you want to be and learn everything you can from that person.
In this post we are going to breakdown what a mentor is and the different types of mentorships. Next we will discuss what to look for in an ideal mentor. Then we’ll look at the tools and strategies that you can use right now to find potential mentors.
At the end I’ll show you the exact emails I sent to Joel to get him to meet with me, which lead to working with him on some really cool projects.
Lets get started.
What is a mentor?
A mentor is a person who guides and advises you from their personal experience.
Mentors have helped people succeed in life as far back as the word ‘mentor’ has been around.
Mentorship is not a new concept. In fact, its been around for ages.
Its origin traces back to Homer’s Odyssey… you know that book about that crazy guy Odysseus who goes on an epic voyage and fights crazy sea monsters?
Yeah, that one.
Anyway, before Odysseus leaves on his journey he speaks with his friend named Mentor.
He says something like, “Hey Mentor, please look after and advise my son while I am away.” And apparently the name stuck because we are still using it today.
So you might be wondering… does this actually work? I’d like to see some proof.
Well here you go:
Have you heard of Socrates? Well he mentored this guy named Plato. Plato then in turn mentored Aristotle. They are three of the most well known philosophers of all time. Oh by the way, Aristotle mentored Alexander the Great.
What about Warren Buffett… one of the wealthiest guys in American history? His mentor was Benjamin Graham, the guy who literally wrote the book on value investing.
How about a more recent example? Marissa Mayer’s mentor was Google founder Sergey Brin before she took over at Yahoo!
Types of Mentorships
Mentorship is not a rigid structure that you must follow. It’s a dynamic and evolving relationship that adapts to your needs over time.
You can find mentors for almost anything, but here are some of the more common mentor types:
This is likely the most popular type of mentorship around. You see someone successful in their career and seek out advice from that person. Your desire is to learn how you can propel your career forward as well.
These people have experience, connections, and an instinct that goes deeper than what you read in a book.
If you are seeking to live a healthier life through diet and exercise, health mentors are your best bet. These can be nutritionists, dietitians, personal trainers, and even coaches.
You look up to this person for the amount of care and maintenance they put towards keeping their body in peak shape. You then use their advice to get yourself healthy as well.
If you’re looking for answers to questions about life or feel like something is missing, a spiritual mentor could be the right person for you. You can find spiritual mentors in everything from meditation to religion.
Do you know anyone who always seems to be having fun and doing awesome things? If you want to start livin’ it up, maybe this person could be your new mentor! Mentorships don’t have to be serious, they just have to help you get more out of life.
Finding a well-rounded person that is living their life in a way that you admire is an awesome thing. In your eyes, this person has it figured out and you want to lead a life like theirs in the future.
Finding a mentor like this is great because of how well rounded they are. Life mentors will help you balance out all the areas of your life.
These are just a few of the different types of mentors. There are many more and you can come up with a mentor for anything you want to learn.
If you want to learn to run… find a running mentor.
If you want to learn to fly a plane… find an aviation mentor.
Heck, if you want to learn to knit outfits for puppies, you can probably find yourself a mentor for that as well!
There is also a range of mentorship commitments.
On one end of the spectrum, you could be working with your mentor on a daily basis.
On the other end, you might have a pseudo-mentor that you’re learning from by reading their books. A pseudo-mentor might not even know you exist. An example of this is learning from a historical figure that you admire that might no longer be living.
What to Look for in a Mentor
So now that you know you can get a mentor for any part of your life, what are you supposed to look for in a potential mentor?
Below are some helpful guidelines and questions to ask yourself when seeking out a potential mentor.
How do you define success?
The answer to this question depends on what your current goals are and what you are trying to achieve. Once you decide on what your definition of success is, find someone that already achieved it.
Think about it, you wouldn’t want to be mentored by someone who hasn’t done what you’re trying to do, right?
But, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have many mentors along the way if you have an ambitious goal.
For example, say your goal is to generate $100,000 in monthly revenue from your business. The first step is to make $1,000 per month. Then you can progress to $10,000, $25,000, etc.
Finding someone that is currently making $1,000 per month from his or her business is great when you’re just starting out.
Yet, when you’re making $1,000 and they are still making $1,000 maybe its time to find someone else. Now you can look for someone who is generating $10,000 and let them mentor you instead so you can keep growing.
It’s all about stair-stepping your way up and using reference points along the way.
Will this person challenge your beliefs?
The core purpose of a mentor is to learn from them. If they are not challenging your beliefs at some level, you will not be learning from them.
If you can change the way you think, you can change the way you act, which will lead to results. Don’t do as you’ve always done. Your mentor is showing you a different path that can help you get to where you want to go.
Respect is not one-sided in a mentor/mentee relationship. A mentor wouldn’t be wasting their time with you if they didn’t respect you.
If your mentor gives off that I’m better than you vibe, run fast. They are looking more for what you can do for them rather than how they can help you.
Do they see potential in you?
“A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.” – Zig Ziglar
Even if you don’t believe in yourself, your mentor will see past that and see how much potential you have. When your mentor critiques you, it is because they see something in you and he or she wants to help you achieve your goals.
Can you be yourself around your mentor?
If you feel like you have to put on some type of act around your potential mentor to make yourself look better than you are, it’s not the right mentor for you.
If you can’t be yourself when you’re around your mentor there will constantly be friction and one of you will end up disappointed.
You’re working on changing yourself for the better and your mentor is trying to help you do that. This means that a certain level of vulnerability is a key ingredient to success.
Strategies on How to Find a Mentor
You know what type of mentor you’re looking for and you have an idea of the qualities that you want this person to have. Now it’s time to find the mentor that fits your criteria.
Here are places that you can look to find yourself the mentor you’ve always wanted:
Meetup.com has meetups for everything you can imagine. If you can’t find one, you can create your own. There are over 200,000 meetup groups with over 530,000 meetups happening each month.
Quality meetup groups bring in experts that you can learn from.
If you attend enough meetings you will likely find the type of mentor you are looking for. It could be another member of the group that is a bit further ahead than you, or it could be the speaker the group brings in.
You’ll be amazed at the people you can find just one or two connections away from you.
If you have a LinkedIn account you can see whether someone is a 2nd or 3rd connection away from you. You can then ask one of your mutual connections for an introduction.
Click on “Advanced”
You’ll see immediately how many people you are connected with. These include your first connections, second connections, and all your connections that are in the same groups as you.
You’ll want to narrow this down substantially before starting to dig in. You can start off by narrowing it down by location and industry. In this case I chose Greater San Diego Area for the location and Marketing and Advertising for the industry.
At this stage you’ll get a bunch of great results. You can continue to narrow it down even further if you like.
A great next step is to narrow it down by school. If you graduated from the same college as your potential metnor this is a great talking point and the person will be more likely to help you out.
You don’t need a LinkedIn connection for this to work either. Just start talking to others you know about what type of person you’re looking for. Now that people know who you are looking to meet, when they meet someone that fits your criteria you will be the first to know.
Organizations You’re Involved With
Already involved with an organization? Way to go!
Now that you know what you’re looking for in a potential mentor, keep your eye out for someone in your organization.
Better yet, reach out to a potential mentor and get them to speak at your organization.
Whether you’re still in school or you already graduated, your school is a great place to look for potential mentors. Look for professors that have industry experience, are still involved in their industry, and began teaching to give back.
These are great potential mentors because they already showed that they like to help up-and-comers since they are teaching at a school.
You can find knowledgeable people all over online. Look for influencers that are writing content that interests you. Whether its a blog, an answer on Quora, or an article on a major news publication.
If you feel like you learn a lot from one article, imagine what you could learn if you spent time getting to know the author!
Books make a great type of pseudo-mentor. If you want to learn from history’s greats who are no longer with us, open up a book. Autobiographies and biographies both let us take a deep dive into how this person thought and the principles that led to their success.
Strategies on How to Get a Mentor
You decided exactly what you’re looking for in a mentor and you put in the work to find the perfect mentor.
Now how do you go about getting them to mentor you?
Whats In It For Them? People care about themselves more than anyone else. Think about what your potential mentor wants before speaking to him or her.
Maybe the potential mentor needs an extra set of hands to help out. Maybe she’s looking for someone to help expand her business. Maybe he just wants to give back because it makes him feel like he’s helping out.
You might guess wrong at what the potential mentor wants, but at least you thought about it ahead of time and are bringing some type of value to the table.
Keep it Casual and Fun
Mentorships do not have to be rigid, textbook like learning processes. This isn’t a lecture class! Find something that you both enjoy and go hang out and learn from each other in the process.
Go surf and chat between waves. Go golf and learn things while driving around in the golf cart. Or simply go grab drinks and talk.
Don’t Ask the Person to Be Your Mentor
“If someone has to ask the question, the answer is probably no. When someone finds the right mentor, it is obvious. The question becomes a statement. Chasing or forcing that connection rarely works.” – Sheryl Sandberg
“Hey, you look super busy and successful… want to be my mentor so that you can spend two hours per week teaching me things?”
Yeah…. that doesn’t sound like something most people would say yes to.
Instead, try this:
Ask for their advice
Reach out to your potential mentor when you have a question that you think they would enjoy helping you with. It could just be a short email, phone call, text message, or meeting up over coffee.
“Hey I’m working on a project and running into an issue I think you could help me with. I’ve tried x and y, and thinking about doing z. What are your thoughts on this?”
That sounds a lot better than asking someone to be your mentor. Ease into it, and if they like helping you out they will start reaching out to you instead of the other way around.
Say you found an industry expert that lives in the same city as you, but you have no mutual connections. How do you go about reaching them?
Cold email of course!
There are certain strategies you can use to increase your chances of success.
First you’ll need to find their email address.
- There are programs like Thrust.io that help you find someone’s email address. You type in the first name, last name, and company of the person and it will search to find the email address for you.
- I recommend reading this article on finding someone’s email address for more details.
- If you have Gmail, the plugins Yesware and Rapportive are essential when trying to cold email a prospective mentor.
Once you have their email address you can reach out to them. Remember to keep in mind WIIFT and don’t waste their time.
Before you type one letter in your email, first read How to Cold Email Like a Boss and 6 Steps to Writing Great Cold Emails.
If your cold email doesn’t work the first time, keep trying. You can track to see if the person opened the email or not by using Yesware.
Continue reaching out, and following up until they say “no” or until they respond in a positive way.
I met one successful guy who wouldn’t respond to a cold email request until the person sent him three emails. He said it’s a great way to weed out anyone who doesn’t have the persistence to get what they want.
Not all people you will try to reach are going to be like this. Just be aware that some do this, and you’ll have to play along if you’re serious about getting in touch with this person.
If you don’t know exactly whom you want as a mentor, but you have some people in mind, try an informational interview.
An informational interview is where you meet up with him or her for 15 minutes to an hour. You ask questions about what they do, how they do it, and learn as much as you can about them.
The great part about informational interviews is that there are no strings attached. You’re simply reaching out for advice. Bring a couple of relevant questions to the table that you are actually curious about and get this person’s feedback on them.
Make sure to do your research before you show up to an informational interview. Maybe the person you’re meeting with recently wrote an article or perhaps they recently received an award.
Know these things and bring them up when the time is right.
When you ask the person questions, make sure you are actively listening to what they have to say. Find something that interests you in their answer and ask a deeper question that can help you learn more.
Show up Early
Don’t be late to your meeting with this person. If you are, you will start off in the wrong way. And if you show up too late the person might just leave and never answer another email from you again.
Respect their time by keeping your word and showing up when you say you will.
Always Offer to Buy
You just asked a very busy and important person to take time out of their day to help you out. The least you can do is buy them coffee.
Sometimes you will end up buying coffee for both of you, but its not uncommon for the person you are meeting with to buy it instead.
Prepare for their Questions
As soon as you sit down to meet with this person, one of the first questions they will ask you is, “so how can I help?”
Have an answer to this question and show them that you aren’t just there to waste their time. You actually have something important to talk about.
If you don’t have something important to talk about then why are you meeting with this person to begin with?
Go to the Same Events
Another strategy to get in front of the person you are trying to meet is to go to the same events as them.
Look online to see if you can find an event they will be at or be speaking at soon and make sure you go.
At first you might feel like a bit of a stalker, but be normal at the event and just make sure you get some time with the person you were trying to meet. Simply introduce yourself and follow up with them later.
Follow Their Work
If you are looking to connect with someone with an online presence you can make that person aware of you by participating in his or her work.
This means you can do things like: comment on their blogs, retweet stuff they put on Twitter, comment on their Quora answers, take part in their Reddit AMA, and generally provide value to whatever they do.
Work for Free
If you are dedicated to spending time with this person and learning from them, offer to work for free for 5-10 hours per week.
This will show how dedicated you are to learning from them and it will help them out in the process.
If you are going to work for free, set up expectations up front. You don’t want to be working for free and not learning anything in the process.
Ask Permission to Follow Up
If you meet with a potential mentor for coffee and feel like its a good fit, its up to you to get this person as your mentor.
Once again, this does not mean you are asking this person to be your mentor!
As you are ending your discussion, say something like “do you mind if I follow up with additional questions over email as things come up?”
They will most likely say yes. This means you now have permission to ask them questions and they have a reason to respond back to your emails.
Say Thank You
Whether you actually like this person as a potential mentor, you should still say thank you. This person met up with you and shared their wisdom.
Always make sure to mention a couple of things you learned in your thank you note.
Follow Up and Be a Great Mentee
If you get permission to follow up with your new mentor, you need to take action on it consistently or else the relationship will fizzle out.
You don’t have to ask a question every time. Instead, you can show that you are applying things that you are learning from them, like this: “I tried X as you mentioned when we met up, and Y happened. Thanks for the great advice!”
Now you are showing your mentor that you are actually taking action on what they are teaching you. This tends to make them want to help you out even more.
Remember that you get out what you put in. If you are trying new things and asking for feedback you will get a lot further than simply asking questions and never taking action.
Does this really work?
The only reason you’re reading this article right now is because this strategy works. I used these techniques to reach out to Joel and eventually start working with him on some really cool projects.
Here’s how it went down:
On January 7th, 2012 I discovered Joel’s Impossible website. I thought it was awesome and decided to subscribe to his emails.
I read almost all of his emails and started applying the things I was learning like taking cold showers. I did it for three months straight. I was thinking, “wow this guy is insane and it’s freakin awesome!”
So I wanted to meet him, but he was in Chicago and I was in San Diego going to college at the time.
I emailed him randomly one day and told him that if he’s ever in San Diego I’d love to buy him a coffee and chat. That was in December of 2012.
So I keep getting his emails and reading his posts not thinking much of it anymore and then I see something interesting in Joel’s blog post on January 14th, 2014:
I’d been following Joel’s work for two years at this point. I knew I had to meet this guy. So I sent him an email:
That email is horrible. Never send an email like this.
I wasn’t providing any value to Joel at all and I got exactly what I deserved: no response.
So I took a step back, thought about how I could provide value, and sent him another email a couple weeks later.
This email isn’t perfect, but it’s much better.
In this email I tried to figure out how I could provide value to what is important to him:
- He’s new to San Diego – I’d been in San Diego for 3 years at this point and I knew a bunch of people that were also entrepreneurial. Maybe he wants to meet more likeminded people!
- He wants to grow his business – In college I ran a 100+ member student entrepreneur group. I could bring him in to speak, which would give him the opportunity to spread awareness about his cool projects.
This time Joel responded the same day.
I wasn’t really looking for work at the time, but I thought Joel would be a great guy to know. One thing lead to another and we work together pretty frequently now. I’ve learned a ton in the process.
Finding a mentor doesn’t have to be a difficult process. It’s just a matter of research and time to find the right person. Once you find the right mentor, stay committed to learning from this person and moving forward.
There are a few things to be aware of when you have a mentor:
- You don’t have to do everything they say. They are providing you advice based on their experiences and perspective. If you believe that they are wrong and you will be better off doing something a different way, by all means, do it.
- Don’t let your mentor hold you back. As mentioned before, you might need one mentor to get you from point A to point B, but you’ll need a different mentor to get you from point B to point C. Know when it’s time to move on.
- You can have multiple mentors. Having many people advising you at one time can be beneficial or it could make you go completely insane. Everyone has different advice so if you have many people telling you the best way to do something, only you can make the final decision.
In this post we went over exactly how to go about finding a mentor. First, you must understand the type of mentor you want. Next, you have to know the qualities that great mentors have.
Then, you need to use the right tools to find your mentor. After that, you just need to find a way to get in contact with the person.
Lastly, do a little bit of homework, bring some value to the conversation, and follow up when you’re done.
mathew gomes says
great article…i believe in this personally and thought its its about time to get this going in a really big way…i will be reaching out to people soon on this…but appreciate and kudos on the article…an idea whose time has come….again. 🙂
Great article. It was after reading Robert Greene’s book “Mastery” when I made the decision to find a mentor for myself. I was already familiar with the concept but it took me some time until I decided to make it real. Books alone don’t work as mentors, although they are a great source of knowledge.