Are you looking for a mentor?
He or she could help you solve problems within your business or career if they decide to work with you. To find a mentor, you must offer them something of value rather than considering what they can do for you.
That’s according to Dan Saks. He is co-CEO and co-founder of AppDirect. Founded in 2009, his company delivers digital services on any device and works with 35 million businesses around the world. Throughout his career, Saks has acted as a mentor and worked with many mentors.
“I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for mentors,” he said.
“Mentors have [helped] set up the structure … given us introductions to investors and clients and prospects and … have helped recruit and interview people for the company.”
Identify Your Mentor
Finding a mentor isn’t easy. You can pay an expert for their services or work for them for free. Even then, these approaches might not appeal to a leader in their field who is short on time.
John Chambers, former chairman and CEO of Cisco, was one of Saks’s most impactful mentors. Saks met Chambers at Web Summit in Lisbon two years ago.
“I emailed a couple times. There was no response. Then I texted him. He connected me up to his assistant,” Saks said.
“It took us a few months to schedule … but I met John, and I had the most impactful hour conversation that I’ve probably ever had. He was just listening and asking questions and giving me context and ideas.”
Understand The Difference Between A Mentor And A Manager
After you’ve identified a possible mentor, ask yourself if this person is compatible with how you like to work and if you’d like to work like them in a few years.
An executive within a larger company might aspire to their manager’s job, but that doesn’t mean their manager should serve as their mentor. Similarly, an entrepreneur will have to look outside their business or even industry for a mentor with the necessary experience.
“The key is identifying the value those mentors are going to get from working with you. It has to be someone who you would look up to and who … knows the difference between mentoring and management,” Saks said.
Become A Good Student
A mutually beneficial student-mentor relationship can take months or years to develop, and that’s providing both parties talk regularly over the phone or in person.
A good student also strives to add value. As an example, Saks considers what he can do to help his mentor’s business. He also makes thanking his mentors a priority and shows this through handwritten notes, gifts and introductions to mutually beneficial third-parties.
“The key to working with a mentor is to understand the value that they bring and the value that they get out of you and really leveraging that as much as possible,” he said.
Work Within Your Mentor’s Schedule
Good students must recognize what they can bring to the relationship and work within their mentor’s schedule. Saks has spent the past three years mentoring ten entrepreneurs in person and remotely. He works with these students during pockets of free time within his week.
“My calendar generally is booked from eight till seven every single day during the week. If someone is willing to text me or take a five-minute call or … meet up for coffee on a weekend or go for a dinner … those are all different ways that they can engage with me.”
A student with a new mentor might expect the more experienced person to provide answers or advise what to do next. This way of thinking is a mistake, according to Saks.
“A good mentor … instead of telling you answers … will often ask you the right questions to make you think through your strategy or your tactics,” said Saks.
Although a mentor can help you think through ideas and avoid mistakes, what happens next is your choice.
“There’s no silver bullet,” Saks said.