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In order to succeed in today’s business world, it’s vital that you surround yourself with successful people. Networking is critical to increasing your sphere of influence, but more importantly, in finding people who are far better at what they do than you are at what you’re currently doing. Having mentors and friends that inspire and motivate you will make a tremendous difference in your life, in more ways than one. After all, everyone needs to have someone they respect and admire; a mentor will guide you and direct the next steps of your professional journey. While you may be inclined to put these people on a high pedestal, it is surprisingly easy to develop new relationships with them, especially if you’re genuine in your approach.
First, consider your options. Who would be your perfect mentor? There are many successful people, but not all of them would be appropriate. Ideally, the perfect mentor would have connections with individuals you’re trying to network with, but they don’t have to be in the same industry. In fact, it’s better if they aren’t, as you’ll be able to learn something new. Also, while it’s easy to communicate and interact with people from all over the world, it will likely be easier to establish a real relationship (and friendship) with someone you can meet with in person. Connecting with your mentor is the perfect way to determine where you should be heading and how you can get there.
Once you’ve selected someone, it’s time to reach out. Remember that when you’re first establishing contact, it’s vital that you are genuine in your desire for mentorship. Also, it is highly likely that you will run into people and/or systems that make it a little more difficult to get in touch with your prospective mentor. This could be an answering machine, an automated telephone system, a receptionist, or any number of other things. Try not to be discouraged, and remember to be polite to everyone. If you’re pleasant on the phone, the receptionist will likely be much more inclined to help you rather than prevent you from getting through. If you don’t get through the first time, or the second time, be persistent. Be aware, however, that there is a fine line between persistent and annoying.
Next! You’ve made contact with your mentor. Now it’s time to follow through and continue building the relationship. Everyone likes to communicate a little bit differently, so consider this when corresponding with your mentor. You’re actually learning something already! Developing strong communication skills and knowing how to communicate a message differently depending on the person is an invaluable skill to have, regardless of what you are trying to accomplish. Then, know when to talk and when to listen. It’s not beneficial to seek out a mentor and then be so eager to talk that you aren’t really listening to what they have to teach you. Most people will agree that they have learned far more from being a great listener than they have from being a chatter box.
Now, the saying “actions speak louder than words” has never been truer than in a mentoring relationship. Be diligent in observing how your mentor interacts with others. How do they treat others? What do they say to begin and end conversations? How do they dress, walk, or posture themselves in general? Learning from these unspoken clues will prove to be one of the greatest lessons you will ever learn. Great people treat others well and are treated well in return.
In business as in life, relationships are critical. Building relationships with individuals who you respect and admire is vital to your personal and professional growth. Finding a mentor who truly is willing to assist you on your journey is a gift of tremendous value; be certain to treat it as such.