How to Find a Great Mentor: Reaching Out and Reaching Up

To find a great mentor, there are two essential principles to follow:

  1. Reach out
  2. Reach up


Reaching Out

Much like seeking support, finding a mentor is not a passive process. It takes active “reaching out” efforts to find a truly inspiring, knowledgeable, and willing mentor.

So, how does one accomplish this, you ask?

First off, do your research. Why do you want to meet with this person? If you can’t answer this question clearly and enthusiastically, what’s the point of the meeting? Is this person truly the right mentor for you? Once these questions are decided, it’s time to ask.

When asking one for mentorship, it’s best to start with an email. Phone calls and texts can be invasive, but emails allow the most flexibility for a response. In the email, offer to treat them to coffee or lunch. Offer to meet on their terms, at their schedule’s convenience. Also, offer your phone number to them in case they’d prefer to text or call you back.

In the email, don’t hesitate to disclose the nature of the relationship you’re seeking. You can say something like, “I am reaching out to you because I admire your work and would greatly appreciate guidance in helping me find my path as a fellow professional.”

A meeting by phone is okay if that’s all you can get, but much better, is an in-person meeting. This is particularly important if the relationship is just starting.

Again, just like the email, don’t go into the meeting blind. Do even more research on their company and their personal life. As you’re researching, see if any commonalities pop up. Did you both go to the same college? Do you both have a passion for rescuing pets? Do you both play guitar? The more uncommon the common interest you can find, the better!

At the meeting, be humble. Be a student. Avoid the term “pick their brain.” Rather, say you’d love to learn from their experiences. Remember the words of Dale Carnegie, “You win more friends in two months by taking a genuine interest in others than you can in two years trying to get more people interested in you.”

Most people like talking about themselves, and in doing so, will like you more for listening. People also like the feeling of helping someone who is still learning. The more appreciative of this service you are, the more they will be willing to continue to give it.

Lastly, keep in mind the value of their time. Many mentors are taking time away from work or their family lives to make time for you. Handwritten thank you cards and small gift certificates go a long way!


Reaching Up

I am quite confident that I could not get a meeting with Tony Robbins tomorrow even if I tried. I hope that doesn’t come off as a self-limiting statement, as I believe I could and will meet Tony Robbins within the next ten years of my life; however, my point is this:

When reaching up, do so strategically – one rung of the ladder at a time. For example, it’s unlikely I’ll get a meeting arranged with Tony anytime in the immediate future. Still, in the next month, I could get an appointment with Joe Mull, an incredible keynote speaker from Pittsburgh, and fellow National Speaker Association members. Perhaps I ought to go that route.

And that’s my point – strategic reaching up involves reaching up to those ahead of you to learn about the next level, but not so far ahead of you that they’re unreachable.

If you think about it, even if I did meet with Tony Robbins tomorrow, would we even be the best fit to relate to each other? He’s published four bestsellers, and I’m yet to publish even one (fingers crossed, though!).

So, to all those who have acted as mentors to me – James Shamlin, Howard Irwin, Laura Crooks, Ryan West, – I can’t thank you all enough for helping me get to where I am today!


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