Last week I spoke about being lonely in business and one of the things I spoke about was finding people who are a bit ahead of you in their career or business to connect with. A Business Mentor if you will. Now, let me be explicit here, being a business mentor should not be a love job! It should be a paid mentoring arrangement. I know that this can be a controversial subject, but I am going to go there anyway…

If you have been around a little while, you probably know the drill, someone who you do not know, reaches out to you and asks if they “can pick your brain”. Depending on how they have approached you, or what they say will depend on if meet with them, because, let’s face it, your time is limited. But what happens if YOU are the one reaching out? How do you ensure that your intentions align to your actions?

Here are some great articles that offer advice in approaching a mentor and valuing them and their time;

No I can’t be your unpaid mentor – Jane Caro

The right way to ask can I pick your brain – Anna Goldfarb

So, you have found the person who you think could be your business mentor, they tick the boxes in terms of the development you are looking for and what advice you are seeking. Now you need to have a conversation, set up a time to talk to them and be clear about your intentions. Here are my tips in how to approach this:

Reach out to them

Reach out to the person to explain what you are looking for and why and see if they have the capacity and time to have a discussion about how you might engage them in a mentoring relationship.

Have a list of questions

Have a list of questions at the ready so that you get the answers that you need about working with them, expectation management, connection and cost.

Here is a list of questions that you could ask a potential mentor: 

Ask them about their background;

Ask them their story;

Ask them about the particular pieces that you have an interest in or where you think they may be able to help;

Ask them about how they have done mentoring in the past, what it’s looked like and how success was measured;

Ask them what they will expect of you. And then ask yourself if you are up for that.

Work out the next steps

As you prepare to close out the initial conversation, you should be thinking about the next steps in the process, do you need to talk to other potential mentors on your list? Are you ready to commit? What is the next step to this process? Oh, and when the relationship will conclude, a lot of people don’t think about this and then they don’t know how to “break up” with a mentor or conclude the engagement.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to a mentor but be respectful of the fact that their time is valuable.

P.S.  A big shout out to one of my business mentors, Richard Hodge for all the awesomeness that he brings to our relationship, a relationship that I could not live without. And that, my friends, is how you know you have nailed a fantastic mentor – you would struggle to live without them.