Starting your own company is a daunting task. There are many things to consider, from networking over marketing to legal matters. It’s a lot. That’s why it helps to have someone by your side who is more experienced than you to be your business mentor.
We have already discussed “The Benefits of Mentorship” in a more general sense on our blog, but in this article, we will go into more detail about how to ask someone for mentorship.
Determine your goals
Before you go and set out to look for a business mentor, you first have to ask yourself a simple question: why?
The positive effects a mentorship can have on a business are undeniable. According to a study conducted by UPS in 2014, 70% of small businesses that received mentoring survived for five years or more. This is double the rate of those that don’t receive mentoring. In the same study, 88% of business owners with a mentor expressed that having one was invaluable to them and their company.
What do you want to gain from your mentorship?
However, mentorship is a broad term that can cover different aspects. Therefore it is important to ask yourself what exactly you aim to gain from a mentorship.
Perhaps you are seeking general advice on how to run a business. Maybe you are looking for someone with lots of expertise in your field to help you with a specific problem. You might just be looking for someone to coach your communication skills. Maybe you just need guidance on a potential promotion opportunity.
Determine what you want. This will make it much easier to find a mentor. When you ask someone for mentorship, be clear about your goals. This will give them an idea of how to help you, or whether they are even able to provide you with what you need in the first place.
Depending on your needs, consider having multiple mentors that each provide you with support in different aspects of your life as an entrepreneur.
What do you want your mentorship to look like?
Just as varied as the topics a mentorship can cover are the different types of mentoring styles. These styles all cater to different learning styles and personality types. Take the time to think about the type of mentor you want to work with, so you can get the most out of your mentorship.
We have identified 5 types of mentors, and while the distinctions between each type can be blurred or fluid in real life, they will still give you a good idea of what to look out for.
- The Challenger: This type of mentor will push you to your limits. They ask hard questions and will force you to focus on the details. Firm, but supportive they can be more like Drill Sergeants rather than friends, but they are confident in your abilities and all they want is for you to reach your true potential.
Depending on the situation, this type of mentor can act friendly or tough towards you. Their mentoring style is most suited for formal situations, where the mentee sets specific goals and targets. The Challenger will ensure that these goals are met and progress is made.
- The Cheerleader: Optimism is a powerful tool, and this type of mentor knows it. They cheer you on and remain positive even when you hit a roadblock or make a mistake. To them, setbacks are nothing but learning opportunities.
With their positive attitude, they will help you get through the bad days and celebrate your success on the good ones.
- The Connector: This one is more of a mentoring strategy than a mentoring type. The role of the Connector is to help you to expand your network. They will introduce you to the right people and teach you how to maximise your relationships with other entrepreneurs.
This type of mentor is especially useful for mentees that are just getting started and lack the connections they need to grow their business.
- The Educator: The focus of this type of mentor lies in teaching their mentee. They might have a background in education or training, although this isn’t necessary. The educator takes the time to study their mentee. They assess where their strengths and weaknesses lie and help them to fix those deficiencies.
- The Ideator: This mentor is all about thinking big. They help their mentee with brainstorming and coming up with new ideas. The ideator helps their mentee grow their ideas into sound and executable strategies.
Especially people who lack ambition, or are too scared to follow them, will profit from a mentor like this.
Find the Right Business Mentor
Now that you know what you want and need, it is time for you to find a mentor. There are online mentorship platforms and programs that can connect you with potential mentors, but if you already have someone from your personal contacts in mind, there are a few things to consider.
Before you ask someone to be your mentor, determine whether the person would be willing to help you. Did they show interest in you and your career? Did the person already offer you advice on a work-related matter? Do they share their experience and knowledge with you?
Build onto your existing relationship and the positive interactions you share with your possible future mentor, and ask them for mentorship once you feel confident that they are able and willing to help you.
Asking someone to mentor you is a big favour to ask and seems daunting at first. Here are some guidelines to help you formulate your request whether you decide to ask them in person, via email or otherwise.
Schedule an Initial Conversation
Ask your potential mentor whether they can make time for you to talk. Make sure to plan in enough time for the conversation, as this isn’t something you should rush and make sure that nothing will interrupt you.
Describe the Guidance You Are Seeking
If you followed the steps described in this article, you know exactly what you are looking for in your mentorship. Share your goals with your potential mentor and let them know what kind of advice or guidance you are seeking from them.
Confirm Your Willingness to Work Hard
Even the best mentor in the world won’t be able to help you if you aren’t willing to put the effort into following their advice. Make it clear that you are willing to commit the time, energy, and effort it takes to get the most out of their counselling.
Acknowledge Their Efforts
Chances are that the person you sought out to ask for mentorship is or was highly successful in their career. This means they are most likely very busy and in high demand. Tell them that you acknowledge these factors and that you appreciate them considering your request.
What if Your Request for Mentorship Is Declined?
If the person agrees to your request, you are now off onto your personal mentoring journey. Remain proactive and make the most out of this incredible opportunity.
However, what if your request for mentorship was denied?
Don’t worry. Try to understand the reasoning behind the other person’s decisions. Perhaps time constraints made it impossible for them to take you in as their mentee, or maybe they did not think they would make a great fit for your needs.
Regardless, don’t be discouraged. Finding the right match might take time, but there are many mentoring opportunities out there. If you keep at it, you should eventually find someone who can help you out.
A mentorship can help you to grow as a person and as an entrepreneur. It is an incredible opportunity to learn from someone far more experienced. However, finding the right mentor for you can be tricky.
Determine what you want to gain from your mentorship and what kind of mentoring style you would prefer. Do you want someone who is tough and honest? Or do you prefer a mentor that is supportive and cheers you on when you feel insecure?
Communicate your needs to your potential future mentor and let them know that you are willing to put in the effort to learn. Acknowledge the time and effort that goes into mentoring someone, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t find someone willing to help you right away.
If you keep looking, you will eventually find the right mentor for you.