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How to Find a Business Mentor: 7 Places to Explore

Behind every successful business person is a mentor who taught them everything they know. Mentors teach valuable lessons and provide moral support when the going gets tough. But where do you find one? From in-person networking events to casual online chats, here are seven places to explore.

1. Scour LinkedIn for Someone With Your Dream Job

LinkedIn: The quintessential networking tool for professionals in virtually every industry and a great place to start your quest for a mentor. Enter your dream job into the search bar and filter by “people.” From there, you can search by criteria that are important to you, such as geographic location, industry, and even specific companies.

Quick tip: Before pitching someone on LinkedIn to be your mentor, follow them on social media, attend their live streams, interact with their content, ask questions, and do whatever you can to show your interest before asking for any favors.

2. Leverage Other Social Media Networks

LinkedIn is the obvious choice for work-related networking, but depending on your industry, there are likely tons of relevant groups on other social media platforms.

Facebook is a great place to find niche groups, and people are often willing to offer advice and mentorship there. Enter industry-related keywords in the search bar and filter by “groups.” The more niche you can get, the better your chances of finding a good fit. For example, rather than searching “SEO,” go for “Women in Technical SEO.” Instead of “gardening,” try “Central Texas Vegetable Gardeners.”

Reddit and Twitter are also useful platforms for connecting with others in your industry and potentially finding a mentor. Just make sure to keep your professional and personal content separate.

Quick tip: Rather than using the search bar within Reddit (which is notoriously unhelpful), use Google to find relevant subreddits. For example, enter “software developer” into the search bar to sift through coding-related groups.

3. Check Out Industry-Related Events

Conferences and tradeshows are teeming with potential mentors, as they often attract top-tier talent and experienced leaders. So how do you find out about them?

First, subscribe to companies’ email newsletters in your industry. Check your inbox regularly for events that could be a good fit. Stay engaged on social media and in the niche groups you’ve joined, as people regularly share event info there. You can even perform a Facebook search and filter by “events” in the lefthand sidebar.

Quick tip: Want to continue your mentor search from home? Attend webinars — many of which are free — and participate in the chat. You could hit it off with someone you may have otherwise never met.

4. Join a Coworking Space

If your job doesn’t require you to be in a physical office space, it can be tough to connect with other professionals. Rather than working in a home office five days a week, consider a coworking space — even if it’s just for one day a week.

The open, casual style of coworking spaces makes conversation less intimidating than a formal office environment. Even if a prospective mentor doesn’t have experience in your exact industry, they may still be able to offer support and insight. For example, an experienced tech entrepreneur could still teach you valuable startup lessons on how to get funding or pitch investors, even if your industry is e-commerce.

Quick tip: When approaching a potential mentor, don’t immediately jump to the pitch. Start by asking them about their hobbies, interests, and community. Explain your background and interests, too. When it feels natural, shift the conversation to mentorship.

5. Sign Up for Mentorship Platforms

Online mentor services match you with a mentor in just a few clicks. Here are some of the most popular options:

    • SCORE: Free to use, SCORE allows you to search for and interact with mentors in your area and industry. They’ll educate you on small business best practices and provide valuable advice.
    • Growth Mentor: Best for startup founders, Growth Mentor offers virtual 1-on-1 interaction with industry experts to help you vet ideas, troubleshoot issues, overcome obstacles, and more.
    • Pelion: No matter what issues you’re facing at work, Pelion sets you up with weekly or monthly calls with a mentor who can offer support.

Quick tip: You may be wondering if paid mentorship is worth the cost. If you’re on a strict budget, your money may be better spent elsewhere. But, if you can afford it, think of it as an investment in your future. Getting relevant, tried-and-true advice — especially advice that you don’t have to learn the hard way —  is priceless.

6. Ask Around Your Professional Network

Technology makes networking all over the world easier than ever, but don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth recommendations. During your next Zoom meeting, why not break the ice by asking if anyone knows of someone looking for a mentee? What about a quick Slack ping to a colleague asking if they have anyone top-of-mind? You never know who’s willing and available in your own organization.

Quick tip: If you’re thinking about directly asking a senior colleague in your organization to be your mentor, schedule a meeting and give them a heads-up before pitching. Respect their time and let them know you’re willing to put in the necessary work to be their mentee.

7. Locate Your Nearest SBDC

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) work with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to help entrepreneurs start, maintain, and grow their organizations. They’re hosted by colleges, state agencies, and private organizations.

Similar to an individual mentor, an SBDC offers personalized advice related to business planning, technology, financial management, and more.

Quick tip: Use our SBDC locator to find a center near you in just a few clicks.

Additional Mentorship Considerations

Once you start your search for the perfect mentor, you’ll likely have a lot of questions. What do I look for in a mentor? How can I be the best mentee? Let’s go over some useful insights.

Benefits of Having a Mentor

It’s easy to imagine the benefits of having a professional cheerleader. But what do the statistics say? A recent study from MentorcliQ reports the following benefits of mentorship:

  • Productivity: 88% reported greater productivity
  • Morale: 83% reported a greater desire to stay at their organization
  • Improved competence: 91% reported improved competency in an area they worked on
  • Improved professional relationships: 90% reported improved relationships with someone else in the company

Now that you know how mentorship can positively impact your career, what are the green flags to look for in potential mentors?

Traits to Look for in a Prospective Mentor

Be on the lookout for the following qualities in a mentor: 

    • Availability. You’ve spent time (and possibly money) searching for a mentor. Make sure they have the availability to support you. If you get the sense they’re overbooked, consider someone else.

    • Positivity. As someone who’s just starting out or trying to get a business off the ground, you want someone who will be encouraging and optimistic.

    • Transparency. While positivity is important, you also want someone realistic and transparent, especially about their own shortcomings or failures. Often, the most valuable lessons are learned through the failures of others, so look for a mentor who’s willing to share the not-so-positive.

    • Openness. You’ll want an open-minded mentor, especially when it comes to your ideas. They shouldn’t be stuck in the mindset of what worked for them. Look for a mentor who listens and respects you while still offering guidance.

    • Enthusiasm. Look for someone who is hungry to learn more, even if it seems like they already know it all. Enthusiasm and passion for work are at the core of every good mentor.

6 Questions to Ask a Potential Mentor

During your initial meeting, you’ll want to come prepared with questions to ensure the partnership is a good fit. Use this list as a starting point:

    1. What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?
    2. What do you wish you knew when you were in my stage of your career?
    3. Who was your mentor, and what was the most valuable lesson you learned in that relationship?
    4. What’s one project or skill you’re currently working on?
    5. What’s one aspect of your career you’ll never do again, and why?
    6. What made you want to become a mentor?

After you’ve asked your questions, be prepared to explain why you’ll be a great mentee.

Tips for Being the Best Mentee

Build a professional relationship that lasts by being a stellar mentee. You never know when opportunities may arise in the future, and you don’t want to burn any bridges. Get the most out of your mentorship by keeping the following in mind:

    • Stay curious. Bring new questions to each session. Ask them about the industry newsletters, podcasts, and books they’ve been listening to.
    • Stay punctual. Your mentor is likely a very busy person, and one of the best ways to show your appreciation is to respect their time. Show up early to meetings, and don’t drag out calls or cause them to go overtime unless they encourage it.
    • Stay humble. Remember that everyone starts somewhere, and your mentor’s experience is valuable even if you don’t always agree with or understand it.

When you’re looking for help for your small business, few things make a more lasting impact than quality mentorship. The advice you learn today will have a ripple effect on your success for years to come.

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