How To: Find and Work With a Mentor

3. Choose your battles. Know what to bring to your mentor. Don’t rely on them too heavily for day-to-day advice. A mentor is meant to be a bigger-picture thinker and strategist for you. They help you keep your head above water, and give you perspective and a sense of longevity with your business. If they’re open to more granular questions and discussions, great. But you can’t assume that their time for you is infinite. Choose your questions accordingly.

4. Set the agenda. Make a list of what you want to discuss and what problems you hope to solve in each session with your mentor. Bring something for taking notes and be conscious of their time. No one wants to spend three hours with you at Starbucks talking about something that could have taken 20 minutes.

5. Experience counts. Choose a mentor who has a history in your specific business. If they don’t have knowledge of how your world works, you’ll both be frustrated because you won’t be taking the advice the mentor is giving (annoying to the mentor), and the advice won’t really apply to what you’re doing (bummer for you.) Make sure that they can be useful to you (just because someone has a fancy title or made a lot of money does not necessarily mean they’re going to be the best mentor for you) before you drag them through the drama of your business woes.

6. Respect boundaries. Your mentor may make an introduction or give you a contact. It’s your job to make them look good and to treat that relationship with the utmost respect. You need to be prompt with your follow-up, responsible in all communications, and understand that you are now part of this person’s reputation. Take it seriously.

7. Say thanks. Mentors need to be appreciated for their time, assistance, guidance, and support. They are doing this for free, as a favor, or as a way to give back. Make sure you acknowledge this through taking them to lunch, sending thank you notes, baking them brownies—anything to show your gratitude.

This is a key relationship. Treat it with care and it will serve you well for years to come. Hopefully, you’ll be in a position to mentor someone someday—returning the favor will feel twice as good as getting it.

Ladies Who Launch is asking you … do you have any additional advice for women who may be seeking a mentor? Let everyone know in the Comments section below!

Many of our Featured Ladies credit much of their success to mentors. Malaak Compton-Rock describes hers as her “single greatest source of inspiration.” Read her story and see why!