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Need Advice? Try This Mentorship Hack.

Peter Kozodoy logo Posted Wednesday September 21st, 2016 Need Advice? Try This Mentorship Hack.

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Mentorship is like a solar eclipse: Everything has to line up just right to make it work. I've heard from many organizations that mentor matchmaker programs don't work because it's nearly impossible to create alignment between the mentor's schedule, the mentee's schedule, the mentor's expertise, the mentee's needs, the mentor's personality, the mentee's willingness to listen, and so on and so forth. That's why I don't have one mentor: I have hundreds.

You're probably wondering how I've managed to develop hundreds of mentors when I've just explained that it's difficult to find one. The short answer is, I've been using a new technique for the past year - with amazing results. If you're looking for business advice, try this mentorship hack:

  1. Change the definition of mentorship. When defining mentorship, most folks think about one-on-one sessions, long hours spent together and an overwhelming number of accountability spreadsheets. I beg to differ; to me, a mentor is anyone who possesses either a nugget of wisdom or a valuable connection that can benefit my journey. If they have both, all the better.
  2. Actively look for a mentor within everyone you know, first. When I say "first," I mean, when I assess my current network or make new acquaintances, the first question I ask myself is, "could this person be a mentor to me?" Then, and only then, do I move on to questions like, "can I help this person connect to someone else I know? Can I help this person advance his or her current initiative(s)? Can I buy from this person? Can this person buy from me?"
  3. Actively ask people to be your mentor. If I've identified that I can benefit from someone being a mentor to me, I come right out and say something like, "it's clear you are ahead of me by several steps, and have achieved similar results to what I'm trying to achieve. First, congratulations! Second, would you ever be willing to share your valuable knowledge with a beginner like me?" Trust me: People love to be recognized for their work and tapped for their expertise. I've never had someone turn this offer down!
  4. Be specific about what you need from him or her. Typically, I'll start by asking the person to give his or her life story. If this is met with reluctance, I admit that I love to hear people's stories - that they inspire me, teach me, and provide me with a framework for how others achieve success. Without a doubt, you will learn a great deal from their story. More importantly, their story will give you opportunities to narrow your focus and pick out the one or two mentor benefits you really need. For instance, in trying to get my book published, I spoke with many authors and listened to their stories. When it came to the parts where they achieved what I needed (in my case, a book proposal and a literary agent), I would ask many more questions about how, when, where, who, etc. In every case I either received advice, a commitment to actively work with me to achieve those goals, or an insanely valuable introduction.
  5. Extend lavish praise and gratitude. Even if I haven't explicitly used the M word, I will typically bring it up in post-conversation thank-yous, with something like "I'm inspired by your success and so grateful that you've been willing to mentor me through my challenges. THANK YOU!" Until this moment, they may not have realized that they were mentoring me, per se - but when I use that word, I'm conveying feelings of giving back, community, legacy, and all kinds of other warm-and-fuzzies that bring the relationship closer. Keep in mind the brutal truth about mentors: you will get nowhere without them. Therefore, heap on the praise and gratitude like your career depends on it - because it does!

People - particularly successful business people - are usually more than happy to help the next generation achieve success. Instead of taking the long approach, try this mentorship hack to build a fruitful network of mentors quickly and effectively. I've developed some of the most fulfilling and fruitful relationships of my life this way, and I'll continue to look for mentors until they start turning me down.

Finally, let's not forget the best part: Make sure that when you achieve success, you pass it on by mentoring others. That's when you'll experience the very best benefits of mentorship.

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