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The right way to strategy and entice a possible mentor

If you feel like you're spinning the wheels at work, working with a mentor can get you back on track and move forward with full speed. Use these tips to find one that suits you.

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August
8, 2018

6 min read

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Jessica Abo's book Unfiltered: How To Be Happy As You Look On Social Media. Buy it now on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound or click here to buy it direct from us and SAVE 60% in this book if you use code LEAD2021 by 4/10/21.

When I gave a speech in New Orleans, there was a teenager named Ben Shapiro in the audience. I saw Ben again when I was touring the country on a lecture tour and had the opportunity to watch him lead a workshop for youth at a youth convention. I was overwhelmed by his creativity and I knew he would be successful no matter what he did in life.

A year later he turned to me and asked if I was looking for an intern. He lived in Los Angeles and I was in New York City so I told him I would take care of him through phone calls and emails, but otherwise I didn't have much to offer him at the time. For months, Ben emailed me asking if he could work on my YouTube channel when he was flying to New York for the summer. He was so persistent that if I said no, it made me feel bad. His mother said she would rent an apartment in New York for the summer so Ben could have a place to stay. He took classes a few days a week and worked with me on the others. Ben is a great example of how to stay in touch with someone you've met and not take no for an answer.

If you ask someone who you don't know is your mentor, make sure you immediately understand why you are contacting them. Explain where you are in life, mention that you are looking for a mentor, and explain why he or she is a great mentor to you. Here is a short version of what a young woman named Gabi Golenberg sent me out of the blue.

Dear Jessica,

My name is Gabi and I am 15 years old and live in Los Angeles. Through online research looking for possible mentors I could get advice from about an internship, I came across your inspiring work, both with your entrepreneurial skills and with your involvement in Jewish organizations. These are two things that have been my passions and interests all my life. I would like to pursue your abundance of work in various fields in the future, and I really admire your achievements. It would be a great honor and opportunity to have the opportunity to speak to you at some point as your work reflects my passions. I hope and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Thank you for your time.

All the best,

Gabi

When Gabi sent me this email, I had no plans to be in Los Angeles. I explained to Gabi that my work was initially in New York, but that I would like to talk to her on the phone and keep an eye on her for future projects. We were supposed to set up a call, but I was busy talking and reporting on New York Fashion Week and I dropped the ball.

Fast forward four months. I started traveling back and forth between New York and Los Angeles and had the pleasure of meeting Gabi for coffee on one of my trips to California. She was even more impressive in person. We made a game plan for me to look after her during her junior year and to find out which of my projects she wanted to help with.

Be thankful

After your first call or email to your prospective mentor, thank them and share what you got out of the conversation. Once they sign up as a mentor, don't bombard them with emails, calls, and texts. Be respectful of your mentor's time. If you send an email and your mentor doesn't reply right away, you can't find the email and click Forward to make sure you've resent. And don't send an email with just a question on the subject and nothing in the body like this: "SUBJECT: Tony, did you get my text? THNX."

Abrupt messages like this make you look disconnected from reality, which means Tony has duties other than mentoring you. So think twice before you hit submit.

Here are some more tips that you should follow to ensure that your relationship with your mentor stays positive:

Meet your mentor. Once you've set a time to meet them, you should be clear about what to expect from a mentor. Are you looking for guidance? To shadow them at work? Make sure your expectations are matched so that there are no misunderstandings. The relationship between mentor and mentee. Set the prerequisites for how this dynamic works early on. How should you get in touch if you need their advice to get started? Does your mentor prefer phone calls, FaceTime, or email? Does it bother you when you send a text for something urgent? Plan ahead. They also want to find out how often they can meet. Never leave a meeting without planning your next. It is your job (not your mentor's) to keep the mentorship alive. The next question. If you've built a relationship with your mentor over time, you can ask them to write you a letter of recommendation or be a reference for you when you apply for an internship or position. Mentors are connectors. Your mentor may also be willing to give you an introduction. Stay in contact. Mentor / mentee relationships can turn into lifelong friendships. Don't just do this about yourself and send updates about your life. From time to time, send your mentor a check-in message. Congratulate him when you come across good news about his personal life (maybe his child went to college) or when you see an update on his company. If necessary, send a Christmas card or a greeting card. Not only does this show that you are thoughtful, but you never know when they will be in a position that would suit you well, and it doesn't hurt to always stay tuned.

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