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I Want A Mentor... NOW WHAT?! - Debra Trappen
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I Want A Mentor… NOW WHAT?!

Updated 1-11-17 (added #9 at the bottom of the list…)

Mentors are a key ingredient in life and success.

Yes, we all have many personal and professional resources (books, workshops, eCourse, etc) at our disposal.  However, a mentor is arguably one of the most helpful resources to skyrocket our success.  Nothing can replace advice from someone who has walked the path you seek to take, conquered a fear you have, etc.

The reality is, the responsibility for initiating a mentoring relationship is, and should be, on the protégé.  However, if you don’t know how to get one, how do you get one? 

I am frequently asked questions like:

    • How do I choose a mentor?
    • What questions should I ask?
    • How do I prepare for my mentor meetings?


This post shares my tips, tools, and resources on the process of finding a mentor AND being an excellent protégé. :)


1. Be clear with the “WHY” behind wanting a mentor.

Why do you actually WANT a mentor?

Ask yourself these questions:

      • Am I looking for someone to offer specific advice?
      • Do I want someone who is connected to my industry’s influencers and leaders?
      • Do I need someone to hear my ideas and fill in the missing pieces?
      • Where do I see myself in the 12 months?
      • What knowledge, skills, and abilities do I need to get there?
      • What key experiences would a mentor have that would benefit me most?


2. Be Selective.

When looking for a mentor, think beyond current or former bosses or colleagues. You want to be able to discuss current workplace issues, as well as your plans for future advancement.  Choosing someone who doesn’t have a direct connection to your past or current employers may make this easier.


      • Successful family members or friends
      • Spiritual leaders
      • Community leaders
      • Fellow association members
      • Industry influencers/leaders

Ask yourself:

      • Are they a HAPPY person? Regardless of their success “on the outside” are they a generally happy soul?
      • Do they have a business model or specific success I admire?
      • Do they live the kind of life I would like to emulate?
      • Do they network (or whatever skill you want to sharpen) like a master and I want to learn how, too?
      • Can this person guide me toward my professional or personal goals?


3. Be clear with your expectations and vision of this relationship.

Mentoring can be a weekly coffee, monthly lunch, a quarterly phone call, or a virtual video chat.  Thinking outside of your city or region can open up the possibilities of WHO your mentor is, as well!

Ask yourself:

      • What do I expect out of the relationship?
      • How often do I want to meet?
      • How will I prepare them for each chat?

Once you have found the right person, approach them with a well-developed plan for your partnership. Do your homework and be ready to share your short-term goals, your accomplishments, your major objectives and how/whey you believe they will be able to help you.


4. Be cautious and consider doing a “beta” chat.

Before asking someone to be an official mentor, try asking for input on a single specific topic.

Then ask yourself:

      • Did I feel a learning connection to this person? (Were they too pushy, not convicted enough, or just right?)
      • Was their advice good?
      • Was it delivered in a way that I understood?
      • Did I leave the conversation feeling equipped, confident, and energized?

If the answers are YES, move forward.

If not, move on.

Also, it is important to note THEY may decide they aren’t a fit or interested in moving forward.  Please don’t be hurt or offended. Potential good mentors are very busy people and they may not feel ready to commit to being a mentor.  You want to know that UP FRONT, not 3 months into your arrangement.  Thank her for her time and ask for a referral! 


5. Be prepared.

It is likely that the person you are going to ask to mentor you is running a thriving business, excelling in their career, or wrangling a busy home and life.  Since one of your biggest responsibilities as a protégé is to make sure you are efficiently and effectively getting what you need from your time together – the initial meeting is your moment to shine.

Consider the following questions to get your relationships off in the proper direction:

      • How do I learn best? Reading, observing, doing, or listening?
      • What will make our time together a success?
      • What do you expect to learn from your mentor?
      • How will you know if the relationship is working?


Likewise, ask your mentor questions such as:

      • What do you expect from me?
      • What is your preferred way of teaching? Writing? Sharing stories? Hands-on? Shadowing?
      • What would they like to learn from me?

Send them the questions ahead of time so they have time to prepare!


Bonus!  Here are the steps I take when booking a mentor meeting:  

1: Secure a date and time for our next meeting or phone chat.

2: Email the topic I want to cover and the 2-3 questions I have for them.  

3: Follow up with a calendar request – with the topic and questions IN THE NOTES of the request.

4: Call/email/text (whichever they prefer) the day before to confirm our meeting.

5: Show up (or call) on time.  Respecting their time is extremely important.


6. Be open, give feedback, and share your updates.

When your mentor recommends a technique that really worked out for you, let her know.  We all love to know we are adding value – especially when our advice was part of someone else’s success.

Take notes along the way and share 2-3 specific success moments!  If it didn’t quite work out, talk through how you can tweak the concepts and move forward.


7. Be Helpful.

Look for opportunities you can help your mentor.  Ask questions, find out what their hurdles are and fill the need, as appropriate.

For example: Does your mentor need to sharpen her technology skills and you are a whiz?

Does your mentor need to sharpen her technology skills and you are a whiz?
Has your mentor been trying to get into a local hot spot restaurant and you have a connection?

In other words, it doesn’t have to be about WORK… it can be about LIFE and FUN!


8. Think Diversity.

You are absolutely allowed (and encouraged) to have more than one mentor. In fact, I have a personal Board of Advisors and highly encourage you to do the same. Choose different people for different layers of your professional and personal life.




9. KNOW what success means to YOU.

If you don’t define what success means to YOU, the media, your clients, a friend, even a MENTOR with a very different value structure will define it for you.  So, before you meet with your mentor – take some time to fill in the blanks:

I feel successful when ______________________. 

I feel successful when ______________________. 

I feel successful when ______________________. 

I will feel successful when ______________________. 

I will feel successful when ______________________. 

I will feel successful when ______________________. 


It was my heart’s desire to help you put some structure around finding your mentor and truly leveraging and honoring your time together!  I look forward to hearing thoughts along your mentoring journies ahead!




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