At each 3DS program, participants receive hours of dedicated, one-on-one mentorship from experts and entrepreneurs in their community. But what happens when the program is over? Or if you don’t have access to a 3DS program at all?
Mentorship can be one of the most invaluable resources for aspiring entrepreneurs. Whether it’s company growth, deciding equity or roles within a startup, or networking and introductions, the real-world experience of mentors allows them to give solid guidance and direction.
But how do you find them and develop this relationship?
As helpful as mentors are to young entrepreneurs (and even more mature entrepreneurs), they can be equally difficult to find.
Here are some steps for getting over that hurdle and finding your perfect mentor:
1. Attend Events
I know, age-old advice to young and hungry entrepreneurs. But there is a reason for that consistently repeated advice. It works. If you don’t have someone already in your network or who you would naturally see in your day-to-day life, there is no better opportunity than networking events. Be in-tune to the ecosystem in and around where you live and get as much exposure as possible. Talking to people face-to-face and getting to know them is still the best way to develop your network and build connections that can become mentorship opportunities. If you don’t know where events in your area are, do some light googling or check out the local Meetup and Eventbrite postings.
2. Be Patient
You may not live in an area saturated by entrepreneurship experts; you may not work out of a coworking space; and you may not even be at the stage where your startup is up and running with a working MVP. All of that is OK and none of it means you can’t find a mentor. It just means it may take some time. And that’s actually a good thing. Because on your mentorship journey you’re going to want to…
3. Shop Around
It’s important that you find a mentor who you get along with and who gels well with you and your team. As one of our founders at 3DS says, “beggars should be choosers.” Even if your instinct as an entrepreneur may be to go with the first person you meet who would at all be open to being your mentor, resist it. Having a mentor who you enjoy, respect, and can talk to is more important than just finding a mentor.
4. Be Honest and be “Mentor-able”
While there is something appealing about yes-men, the best way to really grow as an entrepreneur and get the most out of your mentor is to look for someone who will tell you straight up where the weaknesses in your solution are. An open, honest rapport with your mentor will not only help your startup, but will help maintain your reputation as someone who is both easy to work with and open to change. Coachability matters. And your potential mentors will have larger networks than you, and the more those networks can know that you are open to and eager for advice, the better.
5. Come in with a plan
Before you ever meet with a potential mentor, think long and hard about the most pressing questions and issues you have, what your current strategy and business model is, and how your mentor can help you. To make the most of your meeting and to not waste your mentor’s time, it is important to really hone in on why you need to meet with them in the first place. Driving the conversation and being prepared will speak volumes to your mentor about how you operate as an entrepreneur or business partner. Mentorship is a two-way street. Your mentor is not a genie and cannot just perfectly guess what you need from them and deliver it to you on a silver platter. It’s a relationship. And just like any relationship, it’s all about communication. Know what you need to say and say it and your mentor will be all the happier.
6. Wait to make your ask
Even if at the end of the day, you really need an introduction to an investor or help with funding, resist making these asks on the first date. The best mentorship relationships are long-term, and, like any other relationship, are built on trust and mutual respect. It’s never a good look to seem like you are just trying to take advantage of your mentor. And, what’s more, you shouldn’t want to. A single connection shouldn’t be the only reason why you choose a mentor. If you’ve chosen your mentor carefully, they will have endless guidance and support for you. Prove that you value their guidance before you ask them for money or introductions.