Trae Bailey is one of those creative individuals who is always up to something interesting. He serves as a Second Lieutenant with the Army National Guard. He's a freelance marketer, and he's currently organizing a speakers' bureau. He will man your booth or your merch table at a conference and help you sell more stuff than you dreamed possible.
Several weeks ago, Trae thought that I'd enjoy meeting an app developer in Indiana, so he went out of his way to connect us. That's the kind of person Trae is.
I was thrilled when he joined Kicktastic in October and when he later agreed to share his thoughts on connecting with mentors. I hope you enjoy these insights from Trae... .
Whatever you want to accomplish in life, you will drastically increase your chances of being successful if you find and meet regularly with a mentor—or, better yet, a group of mentors.
Abraham Lincoln is often times lauded for surrounding himself with smart people. Without a doubt, Lincoln’s strategic use of mentors and advisers contributed greatly to his success as a president and as a vampire hunter. As an entrepreneur you would do well to learn from Lincoln and seek out mentors who can share wisdom and encouragement. High-quality resources tend to produce high-quality results.
The same is true in mentor-mentee relationships. Use these five steps to land a great mentor:
1. Make a connection. Odds are, most of the great mentors in the world don’t have “Call [insert your name here]” on their to-do lists. That is why you need to take the initiative. Reach out and make a connection with the person whom you want as a mentor. Contact that person through e-mail, phone, or in person, and keep your introduction brief. Lead with something like, “Hi my name is [insert your name here] and I really admire your work in….” Proceed to Step 2.
2. Determine what makes you valuable to that person in particular and share your story. People connect through stories. When meeting new people you typically go through the common ritual of exchanging introductory stories that explain what you do. Here’s a reality check: Most people don’t care as much about you as they care about themselves (what you can do for them). You will be more effective as a conversationalist if you can tell your story in a way that relates to how you can help the listener. This is true whether you are trying to make a new friend, get a date, or gain a mentor. Make it plain why the listener should care. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- People will take an interest in you if you explain how their work has inspired or influenced you in specific ways. Share how you have taken action on what you have already learned from them.
- People will be more interested in connecting with you if you can offer a service or piece of advice that will enhance their pursuits and business endeavors.
Once you have made the connection and presented your story, ask your potential mentor if he or she would have time to get together. Suggest a specific date, time, and place so that he or she can check his or her schedule. Be clear that you also would be happy to meet at an earlier or later time. Let him or her know that if they can’t confirm immediately or get back to you soon, that you will happily follow up at a later time.
3. Make good on your story. This should be self-evident: be the resource that you want others to be for you. You might not be able to offer as much as someone who is already established in the field, but you do (and you must) have something to contribute. If nothing else, you can show genuine interest and offer your perspective. Even successful people appreciate thoughtful questions and a listening ear.
4. Be a good listener. The key is to establish dialogue. A lot of people can talk ad nauseum about themselves. You probably meet individuals like this everyday. Don’t be that person. Master the art of dialogue. A dialogue is more than a simple conversation; it is a mutually beneficial exchange of comments and ideas. A key ingredient to a productive dialogue is responsive listening. After all, an opportunity to learn from someone smarter, more talented, or more successful than you was probably the main reason you wanted a mentor in the first place.
5. Don’t be a brownnoser. Finding a way to help people whom you admire and respect is one thing. Sucking up is another thing entirely. Mentors, especially experienced ones, are pretty good at detecting flattery. Brownnosers may really be interested in helping out or learning, but they will find doors shut in their faces. Here is how to keep from being obnoxious:
- Check your attitude. You are fortunate to learn at the feet of a great mentor. Maintain your confidence. Don’t grovel. You have something to teach them as well.
- Be respectful of your mentor’s time. Don’t be a bother.
- Don’t be a “spotlight ranger.” Don’t say or do things simply to garner the praise of your mentor. Do the right thing whether or not anyone is looking. Showing integrity under all circumstances is the surest way to attract the right people.
- Finally, don’t seek out mentors simply for the purpose of having names to drop. Soak up everything you can.
Bonus: Learn something from everyone. Don’t just use these steps when engaging with people who are more accomplished than you. Put them into practice with your friends, family, peers, superiors, subordinates, and everyone with whom you come in contact.