How to Find a Mentor

One of the questions I hear most is “how do I find a mentor?”

Mentorship has always been a strange concept to me. For a long time I thought it was common for people to have “official” mentors, but eventually I realized I had never met anyone with an explicit mentor relationship.

Maybe your experience is different, maybe you know of a world where up-and-comers have designated relationships with experienced people who look out for them, but for most people it just doesn’t work that way.

So, instead of helping you find a mentor, I’m going to tell you why you should stop looking for one. Or, at least that you should stop looking for what you think a mentor is.

Why Do You Want a Mentor Anyway?

Just about everyone thinks about having a mentor at some point. Having someone experienced and well-connected to coach and guide you is easy to want.

What benefits would you get from having a mentor? Here are some common ones:

  • Experience to guide you
  • Coaching to help you find shortcuts to success
  • Access to connections and important people
  • Fun and friendship with someone interesting
  • Recognition, encouragement, and support

Having a mentor is ultimately about improving your chances of success (in whatever field or creative venture you’re pursuing) while feeling more confident about what you’re doing.

Having a mentor sounds great, but…

Why Mentors Don’t Exist Like You Think

Who wouldn’t want a no-cost relationship with an important person who could guide you along your career or creative path?

If mentors are so great, why doesn’t everyone have one?

Like I said before, I’ve never known anyone who had an “official” mentor. Yes, I know people who say they have mentors, but when you dig into the story and relationship, you find something a little different.

You don’t find a mentor by making a list of important people and asking “will you mentor me?” There are better ways to accomplish your goals.

Imagine if a stranger approached you and asked you to mentor him. What would you think? Without knowing the person, their work ethic, goals, capabilities, history, etc., wouldn’t it be an awkward thing to respond to?

And what does mentoring really require anyway? How much time? What are your responsibilities as the mentor? How long does the relationship go on? What do you get in return?

The question “will you be my mentor” is just too vague and there are too many unknowns, especially if you don’t know each other.

Finding a mentor isn’t such a structured or explicit process. In the real world, mentors are usually organic relationships without specific titles, goals or responsibilities.

Mentors are most often simply experienced people you get to know and look to for advice, informally and organically. They’re people you go to coffee with, people you ask for guidance, and people you call when there’s a big decision to make.

How to Really Find a Mentor (or At Least Get the Benefits of Having One)

Relationships with “mentors” rarely involve a question of “will you be my mentor.” They’re more likely to happen as any relationship might: through a process of getting to know each other, and through a little give-and-take.

Since your ideal mentors are probably busy people, your best approach is to start by offering some sort of unique value and to “give before you get.”

Be smart and figure out something unique these people might need. If someone you want to meet is traveling to your city, write and offer a ride from the airport. If you see your potential mentor asking a question on social media, respond with a thorough write up just for her.

Start small, and let the relationship grow from there. After you’ve gotten to know someone by being helpful, you might start by asking if you could ask a couple of questions or if you could take the person out to coffee. If this mentor candidate likes you, they’ll be open to meeting or answering questions.

As you might imagine, not all of these relationships will work out. Some people will be difficult to break the ice with, and some you just won’t “click” with.

That’s why it’s best to try and make connections with lots of potential mentors.

That’s also why you should think about mentor alternatives.

Mentor Alternatives

In our list of mentor benefits above, you might have noticed something. Several of the benefits of having a mentor could instead be achieved with a diverse peer group.

Peers can provide recognition, encouragement, and support. They can certainly provide fun and friendship. They can probably even help you with access to connections and important people.

And if your peer group is diverse and ambitious enough, some of them will even be able to coach you or share experience you might not have.

This is why I’m such a big fan of mastermind groups. Masterminds are small formal groups of people who meet weekly to hold each other accountable and offer to help in areas where the others need it.

Unlike mentors, peers are easy to approach and connect with. You should start relationships with as many interesting and ambitious peers as you can.

If you haven’t tried a mastermind group before, just ask 2-3 peers to meet once a week to talk about what you’re working on and to set goals.

And while you’re meeting peers and making new connections, keep more experienced people on your list. Keep trying to meet the people you’d like to know most.

Eventually you might find a mentor or two. If you don’t, your peer groups will be there to provide most of the benefits anyway.

Do you have a mentor? What are your tips for finding one?

Please share in the comments below.

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  • http://www.jordanayres.com Jordan Alexander Ayres

    Corbett, will you be my mentor? Just kidding.

    I agree with everything you posted, although, I can’t stress enough how important I feel mentor’s are when you’re first setting out. It’s great to speak to someone whose in a position you want to get to, it offers both hope and inspiration.

  • http://www.epicwebstudio.com/ Rodrigo Flamenco

    Focus on finding Mastermind Groups, that’s like having mentorship on steroids, find out who are doing what, and which ones are great, basically there’s masterminds everywhere for anything.

    For learning how to pickup girls, business, health, goals in general.

    I’m part of 3 masterminds and I’m planning on adding Fizzle to that list in this year :) and there are a couple more that I want to be part of but in time.

    Having too much things at once happening to you is not great either, so focus on getting one by one, and never go into another until you think you achieved a certain level of success in each one :)

    Is best to let one program end it’s curricula, perfect it, get some success, and then when you integrate all that in your habits, get into the next one, and so on.

  • http://www.autoprofitincome.com Greg Jeffries

    I feel it’s super crucial to find a mentor when you’re starting out. It make take some time, effort and $$$ before you find the right one. But it’s going to save you so much time and money later. Excellent post.

  • http://www.webthesmartway.com Siegfried

    Yeah, it would be great to have a mentor – not sure if it’s that easy though. But I’ve noticed this in real life – it’s more like friendship between the master and apprentice ;)

  • http://www.simplerphoto.com Kim Olson

    I definitely agree that mentorships aren’t typically started by some official agreement but rather form organically from friendships. It’s certainly helpful to get feedback from people who’ve done what you’re hoping to do, too.

    I’ve read of so many benefits of mastermind groups, but have yet to really participate in one where the members are dedicated and serious about growing their businesses. But it’s on my list of things I’d like to do because I love the idea of supporting, bouncing ideas off and holding each other accountable.

  • http://deandeguara.com Dean Deguara

    The way I approach mentoring is kind of a “reverse mentoring approach.” I don’t ask someone to mentor me. That can be awkward. I ask how can I serve them in any way possible. I think the point you bring up is great about “picking someone up at the airport.” That’s how good connections are made. The “let me take you out to lunch so you can mentor me approach” has never worked for me. If I can just get around someone that I can observe, interact with, see them in action (modeling). I’ll take that any day over mentoring.

    So if you ever visiting the Sacramento area and you need something, I’m willing to serve and help any way I can!

  • http://blog.rebreezer.com Orrin

    Hey, this is great. Having a mentor/mentors is really important. They’ve been through the challenges and have the experiences to help us reach our goals quicker.

    I discovered one of my best mentors through realising that he actually could be my mentor. We’d been friends for a few years and he had a lot of experience in the fields I was interested in. When it clicked that he could be a mentor for me, I started learning so much.

  • http://goinswriter.com Jeff Goins

    Such a needed post. The worst question you could ask a would-be mentor is: “Would you be my mentor?” Better to just build relationships and connect with people who can help you in a non-smarmy way. If you have potential — and show it — the right people will want to invest in you. No need to label it, though.

  • http://www.JohnBanksBlog.com John Banks

    Hi,

    I met mine at a conference and actually had a “real” conversation with him! – We exchanged emails a few times before I signed up to his list. It was only after I went through all the content and about a year later I signed up to his program.

    I just wanted to make sure – so I really tested everything he offered out first before financially committing.

    Turns out it was a great move.

    Regards,
    John

  • http://makeextraincomeathome.com Felipe Jose

    I have to say that without a mentor I wouldn’t get into this internet marketing industry.
    I really believe that mentors are important to inspire us! They are like a role model. Tony Robbins is a huge example of a great role model!
    Thanks for sharing your views!

  • http://www.heatherdaygilbert.blogspot.com Heather Day Gilbert

    So interesting that you blogged on mentorship! Some author friends and I have been feeling strongly this need for mentors at all stages of the writing game. We’re launching a blog titled Married…with Fiction on April first for just that purpose–so agents, editors, writers, parents, etc. can connect organically and share stories. We’re also hoping to help by providing crits for hooks, first pages, and queries–specifically for the Christian Book Assoc. audience. Our twitter feed is now live–updates will be coming on there. @MarriedWFiction. Just thought I’d share as this is a timely post for us!

  • http://21switchbacks.com Taylor Jacobson

    Corbett, awesome post. Thank you.

    Whatever little experience I have in acquiring mentors seems to indicate that just three things really matter:
    (1) Be authentic and original – nothing appeals like someone who is “real”
    (2) Be humble and grateful – no matter how awesome you are, let someone else decide you’re awesome and stay grounded!
    (3) Be generous – especially in the small ways that are available (even just with kind words, for example)

    I don’t think finding a mentor can be “gamed” but starting to practice these has been incredible

  • http://craigrsaunders.net Craig Saunders

    Before my stroke in 2008, I was in software development and IT and over the years had developed an extensive network of “peers”, who worked in similar or related jobs at different companies. Many I have worked with at one time or another and it was *very* helpful that we could call on each other whenever we felt the need. Since we all have different expertise (and different experience) there was always someone you could call on when you ran into something you could use advice on. Having such a network of resources was a key to my success.

    Now I’m starting over after a 4+ year hiatus and have to build a new network from the ground up. :-( I suppose that with my previous experience, I’ll have a leg up on how to do it. :-) My suggestion is to be friendly and social at opportunities like user groups, conferences and jobs but nothing too uncomfortable for you and then nurture the network by just sharing with others interesting situations that you encounter. Over time, you’ll grow an amazingly large network of resources that you can tap when needed.

  • http://swallowyourmarket.com Randy Carlisle

    The concept of mentoring appeals to me. It’s the type of relationship that evolves from someone you’re already connected with. Several others have mentioned that it is better to give first, before asking for mentoring. I agree. It’s the same way with cultivating an audience that enjoys your content. By giving first, you ultimately inspire the mentor to help you. And like most things of value, it takes a little initiative and consistency to make things happen.

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  • http://tophlthsites.com/ Alex K

    Great tips for finding a mentor and nurturing that relationship. I’ve found that mentors are just as important in our non-work lives; for example, my own parents died young, so I’ve searched out mentors who inspire me with their ability to age healthfully and with good grace.

  • http://ellenensher.com/ Ellen Ensher

    This post is amazing. It’s frustrating that not to many people understand the benefits of finding a mentor. I teach a class on it over at LMU. It really should be a foundation for a creative learning environment. Not everyone sees it that way. Relationships are everything in this world!

  • http://richmiraclefiles.blogspot.in/ MONA

    Any one whom you can emulate in their expertise qualifies to be a mentor in that particular field.They ,then, become your role model.They also go the extra mile in teaching you.A mentor definitely doesn’t offer you fish ,they teach you to fish.So that’s all the more reason to exercise discretion in selecting your mentor.Because you surely don’t want fish you’re not looking for!After you once find your mentor,hear carefully what they have to say.And then FOCUS on that .Implement it completely.

  • https://mentorbeat.com Pranaya

    This is a great article. Finding the right mentor is always challenging. Therefore you might want to have constant dialog with a few people on an ongoing basis to see who you might click with. And, multiple perspectives are always better than one!

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  • http://businessplanmentor.com Sylvia

    Found this site through Pat Flynn and now I understand why he recommends you so highly.

    Mentors are incredibly useful and an important resource to consider when building a business or on the job. I use the term to describe myself in my biz: BusinessPlanMentor.com .

    I have been fortunate in my early years to have been taken under the wing of a great mentor and guided up the corporate ladder. People should seriously consider finding a mentor or mentoring someone in their field. The rewards can be tremendous and of course go both ways.

    Great post and I look forward to devouring the archives!

  • http://justinsandy.com/ Justin Sandy

    You continue to strike my cords like I am a fiddle in a bluegrass band on tour.

    After banging my head against the wall for months I finally broke down and asked an acquaintance to mentor me as I attempt to build my online business.

    As a retired NFL player I have NO, ZERO, ZILCH experience in the IM/blogging world. I feel I have a platform to speak from but finding the correct target audience and message has not found me yet. I am hoping my mentor can help shorten the learning curve and lead me to me identify my voice, in a practical market, that can create a business, that ultimately creates freedom.

    Keep up the epic work fellas!

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I've often advocated learning from other successful people in your field/niche as a way to become successful yourself. No doubt, I've learned a ton from and owe a lot of my success from observing people like Chris Guillebeau, Gary Vaynerchuk, Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Leo Babauta and many more.

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