Having mentors throughout your career is necessary for getting the motivation and feedback needed to take your approach to the next level, even more so as an entrepreneur.
A mentor can lead you through the dark times surrounding a failure and shed some light on how they dealt with similar challenges.
Photo Credit: Martin Wessely
Too often do people make the mistake of blindly choosing one person to be their mentor who is simply farther along in their career in the same industry.
Instead, you’ve got to find multiple mentors and think more deeply about who you’re partnering with as a mentee and why.
Choose a variety of mentors that share your perspective in some capacity to make the most of the relationship, whether you’re both introverted, trans, Asian, lesbian, Greek, interested in politics or whatever your shared background is.
Being purposeful with what mentors you’re working with will make it a more fruitful connection for both parties, not to mention a genuine way of initially connecting with a potential mentor over your shared experience, interests or career goals.
As a gay marketing consultant myself, I don’t just have one type of mentor, but instead a diverse mix of entrepreneurs and professionals across industries.
I found that I specifically need to have other queer entrepreneurs to look to for support since we share similar experiences in the business world and in life. At the same time, I’ve got many non-LGBTQ mentors that help me navigate my career in different ways, specific to each relationship like a shared interest in writing, social media or science fiction.
My diverse group of like-minded mentors have helped me see problems and opportunities from multiple perspectives, grow my business with purpose and taught me how to provide value to others.
As an entrepreneur or intrapreneur, if you’re looking to find a diverse range of mentors and that share very similar interests and life experiences as you, then take these steps to jumpstart your approach.
Define who you are and what you stand for. First, you need to have a strong understanding of what you’re looking for from a mentor, which will only be clear by knowing yourself and your preferences, as well as what you’re looking to accomplish professionally. Finding the right people starts with you being self-aware about what your strengths and weaknesses are to understand how others might be able to help you.
Monitor conversations inside and outside of your industry. To find like-minded professionals worth connecting with, see what’s shared on social media, listen to podcasts, read articles or review other content formats around the subjects you’re interested in and take note of who’s authoring this content.
This is an opportunity to quickly identify which professionals have a shared outlook and similar ideas to your own, streamlining whom you should reach out to and network with. For example, I might reach out to someone after reading an interesting piece they wrote for the Harvard Business Review or HuffPost Queer Voices if there was a potential for collaboration.
Attend relevant conferences, events and join specific networking groups. There’s nothing quite like meeting face-to-face to give others a strong sense of who you are and for you to feel out who you connect with naturally. Going to events and groups is also a helpful way to meet multiple like-minded people at the same time, which can help streamline the process a bit, but there’s no such thing as as a shortcut here.
Avoid attending generic networking events and groups and instead go to ones catered to your interests, career goals and community to find people that have similar experience to your own. Participating in a relevant group or event is an effective way of selling yourself to others to invest in you as someone worth their time to mentor.
For instance, a lesbian engineer interested in finding a mentor for support might attend an event like Lesbians Who Tech to find other queer professionals to connect with and potentially learn from in the future. I might attend the Community Managers Meetup in New York to connect with others as it is attended by marketers, social media managers and tech focused professionals in their 20′s and 30′s like me.
Provide value to bring worthwhile mentors to you. Instead of just monitoring the content shared by others to find people worth mentoring you, share your ideas in the form of videos, blogs, tweets or otherwise to draw attention to you as someone worth collaborating with. Interview other professionals in a blog post, review their books, invite them on your podcast etc. to entice others to connect with you and your shared interests or experiences.
A podcast like All the Social Ladies, hosted by Likeable Media’s CEO Carrie Kerpen, is the ideal example of a content effort that drives value and attention. With the help of the podcast, Kerpen and her company are able network with other hardworking women in the social media marketing industry and potentially, even provide the opportunity for a mentorship relationship arising as even CEOs need mentors.
Network through existing connections. If you’ve already got a network built, simply ask friends and colleagues to introduce you to others they think you’ll get along with in and out of your industry. If you’re looking to reach a particular person, but don’t know how to contact them, use LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook to see if they are connected to anyone you already know in your network and then ask them for an intro.
Finding the right mentors can be a fulfilling process resulting in life-long relationships with other professionals that truly have your best interests at heart. Spend the time necessary to find a diverse group of mentors that reflect who you are demographically, but most importantly, ideologically.
This article was written by Brian Honigman from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.