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How — and how not — to Find a Mentor

So you want a mentor to help you start or grow your business?

mentor, mentoring, find a mentor

Never ask somebody to be your mentor.  Instead, ask a person who might be a mentor a specific question. Find a question an expert can answer quickly without having a lot of specific knowledge about your case in detail. Make it a question that’s interesting or even fun to answer.

If you get an answer, follow quickly with thanks. And follow not so quickly with another question, ideally a follow-up to that first question.  After that, another question. Find a way to show thanks — testimonials are nice — and keep asking. But go slow.

The best mentoring I’ve seen happened without the formal label “mentoring.”  Nobody asked anybody to go steady, nobody gave anybody a ring. Thoughts were shared and advice given, and it was clearly helpful.

And my apologies to the exceptions. I’m sure some formal mentorship programs work. Volunteer mentors always have good intentions. There are exceptions to every rule. Still, what I’ve seen in practice is this:

Mentorship is far more likely when it isn’t formally packaged as mentorship


  • John Cameron says:

    I agree, all too often people looking for a mentor “hit like a ton of bricks.” It can be a big ask in terms of perceived time. Formal mentoring arrangements take time and involve commitment.

    Small amounts of time are a smaller ask that more people will agree to. They can grow into something more if everybody agrees.

  • Sean Thorne says:

    Tim, I agree 100%. It’s about a mutual fit, a connection in which both sides see eye to eye in some regard, where the mentor has achieved something you hope to achieve one day. Above all I believe it’s about genuineness – a true mentor would never ask for a % of your company – they simply want to help you because they see things within you that perhaps remind them of themselves at that age.

  • audiomind says:

    Why? Is this just from personal experience?

    • Tim Berry says:

      Audiomind, yes. This is just my opinion, based on my experience and what I’ve seen first-hand with other people involved in startups as either entrepreneurs, successful entrepreneurs, or students.

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