Mentors – Find mentors or become a mentor
Sam McAfee – Mentors – How to easily find them or become a mentor yourself.
There are many people who are older than me or have been successful in certain ways and have skills and experiences that are valuable to me that I go to for advice, for sure. And I think what’s interesting here is not that there needs to be, that everybody needs a specific mentor that you need to have some sort of official relationship with that person. But rather that in so far as being an entrepreneur and building a company is a creative pursuit. A lot of it is about human relationships. Everything is about human relationships in product development and building companies.
So it’s important not just learn from your own experiences, but to learn from your peers and to learn from your elders.
I actually think that in my experience, I spend a lot of time just hanging out and talking with friends of mine or people in my professional network who have done cool things and just talking with them about their experiences, coming up with new ideas, or talking theoretically or practically about different solutions and different problems. I encourage everyone to do that. I have a friend who I just met for lunch with recently whose looking for a new job, and she was asking for my advice on how to figure out what she wants to do.
I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of people that are coming to me with that particular question, but it was fascinating discussion. Because I realized it turns out I know a few things about that. And what I told her was that the idea of building a professional network is not this sort of weird, sleazy things about going to lots of events and exchanging business cards. To me, it’s more about finding people that you actually like, that you enjoy talking to, that you can be friends with, who you also have some sort of professional connection. Maybe they do the same thing as you. Maybe they do a complimentary thing. Maybe you can refer a business to each other.
But it’s a much more sort of natural, fluid, organic thing. It’s like, there is some momentum to people asking for advice or asking for help. There’s nothing wrong with that. And I don’t think you should feel bad about reaching out into your network and contacting people and saying, “Hey, I’m looking for a job. I just left this thing and I’m not really sure what I want to do. Let me take you to lunch and can we just problem solve? Let me brainstorm some ideas and bounce them off you. And what do you think?” Most people that I’ve asked for that kind of insight have been happy to come out and meet me for a coffee and just chat.
I think that generally speaking, most of the people you’re connected to in some sort of professional or personal way, probably are connected to you because they met with you, they had an interesting conversation, and they would like to actually help. I think that’s generally true, and I think a lot of my friends, people that I know that are struggling in term of finding a new career or starting a business are very shy about asking. I would ask them to overcome that.
Constantly be out there, be eager to understand, ask lots of questions.
Also, certainly being out there and helping other people as well is useful, because it sort of builds this positive feedback loop of reciprocity. And I think mentors would plug into that framework. If you think about people that you know, professors, or old bosses, or someone you would ask for a reference, most of those people would be happy to sit down with you for an hour and tell you their opinion.
I’m certainly liberal with my opinion. I think a lot of people are happy to tell you what they think, if you ask. And the key is being able to listen to them and actually take it to heart, take it seriously. Nor should you do exactly what everyone says, but certainly, if you’re going to ask for someone’s advice, they tell you something you don’t want to hear, you should at least try to integrate it into your world view somewhat.