Having a mentor is an excellent way to acquire new skills and determine what skills you already possess and to explore your personal strengths and weaknesses. A mentor can share personal experiences. They can be a sounding board for your ideas and give new perspectives to your strategies for achieving goals.
Over the years I've had personal experience with mentoring and I'll draw on that experience to illustrate several approaching to asking someone to be a mentor to you.
The first step is to find someone who has experience doing you what you want to learn about and ask for advice on a particular topic.
A number of years ago I decided to begin investing in commercial real estate. While I had experience in buying and selling single-family investment properties I had no experience in multi-family property investing. A new acquaintance of mine, Mike, owned an apartment building. I knew Mike would be a great mentor for investing in a new asset class of real estate.
Here is the approach I used to ask Mike to become a mentor. This approach works almost every time.
"Mike, you are such an inspiration to me. I have some experience in real estate investing although it is limited to single-family properties. I'm very interested in learning about commercial real estate and would greatly value your expertise in buying and owning apartments buildings.
Would you be willing to guide me by telling me the top 5 things I need to know before I seriously pursue this? "
This approach gave me a great opportunity to start a dialog and to give Mike an idea how much I would appreciate knowing how he became successful and to find out what he would do in similar a situation, how he handled the same challenge I was currently faced with.
By approaching Mike this way, I demonstrated that I was willing to learn and accept feedback and that I had identified goals for my growth. By asking for the top 5 things I also set a limit on the amount of time I was asking of Mike – it may only take him 5 minutes to rattle them off the top of his head. He knows he is not making an open ended time commitment and will be eager to share his knowledge.
This was also a great way to see how well we worked together. Was it enjoyable for both of us? If so, it is highly likely we would both want to continue the professional relationship.
Remember … Ask. Don't hint, or dance around the topic, and don't wait for a mentor to volunteer.
What if you don't have any experience yet?
That's a great question and the good news is, this approach can still work for you.
Here's an example of how you could ask for a mentoring relationship:
"Mike, I'm very interested in learning about commercial real estate and would greatly value your guidance in deciding if real estate investing is right for me.
Would you be willing to spend 15 minutes on the phone with me and tell me what, or who, inspired you to become a real estate investor and your best advice to someone who is just starting out? "
One last word … and, I cannot repeat this enough. Always express gratitude. Even if someone can only give you ten minutes of their time, thank them. You have made a great contact with someone whose expertise you value. Tell them so.
And finally …
It's OK to tell someone you see him or her as a mentor. They will probably be extremely flattered, in fact, they may not think of themselves as mentor material until you plant the seed.