Are you looking for a mentor? If you're a young entrepreneur, or you don't have much experience running a business, you should be. Working with a mentor provides innumerable benefits; not only will you receive guidance, advice and help when trying to solve tough problems, you'll also be able to leverage your mentor's extended network of contacts for new partnerships, employees and clients.
The trouble is, finding a willing mentor can be difficult. Only some experienced business owners will invest the time and effort to help newcomers, and they don't advertise their availability. Mentoring, after all, is a time-consuming process; so, for the person looking for a mentor, it's rude to assume someone would have the time, patience and interest to help with a startup business -- without at least some kind of compensation.
So where can you look to find willing, interested mentors? Here are some of the best places to start:
1. Online mentorship networks
These days, dozens of online programs are dedicated to pairing professionals with potential mentors. Find a Mentor is an example. With usually little or no cost, you'll be able to sign up, find prospective mentors in your area of expertise, chat with them and potentially meet in person to begin an extended partnership. You may also be able to sustain the mentorship exclusively online.
2. Professional networking events
If you prefer to talk to people in person, you could also attend more networking events. Business leaders are always looking for new contacts, whether the reason is that they're after clients, employees or prospective partners for the future. At networking events, you'll be able to meet professionals in many different areas and expand your personal network, even if you don't find the right mentor on the first go.
3. Fitness classes and groups
Businesspeople generally like to stay active, maintain their health, relieve stress and find new contacts, which is why you'll frequently find them in fitness classes and fitness-related groups. For example, you could join a spinning class for a low weekly rate or purchase your own spinning equipment if you plan on getting serious with the activity. From there, you'll be able to participate regularly and get the benefits of physical exercise while meeting new people.
4. Volunteer events
Volunteer events are another good spot to meet like-minded professionals -- especially those who have retired wealthy and are looking for ways to give back. You can use an online platform like Volunteer Match to find volunteering opportunities in your city that match your interests. Once you start attending on a consistent basis, you'll get to know the regulars and can branch out your contacts from there.
5. Industry meetups
If you're looking for mentorship in a specific industry category, there's no better place to go than an industry-centric meetup. These events include conferences, networking events, speaking events, tradeshows and even informal meetups advertised in classified ads or through Meetup.
6. Social media
Next, you can find mentors by searching for them on social media -- especially through publicly available platforms like Twitter, or professional-centric platforms like LinkedIn. With keyword searches, you'll be able to find professionals that match your criteria, and by monitoring followers and engagement level, you can determine a person's reputation and willingness to talk with others. Never lead with an outright request, however; get to know your hoped-for mentor first; and, if you can, offer something of value to begin the relationship.
7. Any public location
Do you think it's impossible to meet a high-quality mentor on the street? You'd be surprised. Experienced entrepreneurs are ordinary people, too. They use public transportation. They walk around downtown. They go to restaurants and bars, especially on the weekends, and they look like anyone else. Take the time to talk to more people about who they are and what they do. Sooner or later, you'll bump into someone who's a good person for you to know in the business world. And, if you can't find that certain someone, you'll meet someone who knows someone who can.
The alternative option: Can you get by alone?
After seeing the number of places where you can find mentors, and knowing that your efforts may not pay off immediately, you may wonder whether it's necessary to have a mentor in the first place.
After all, there are plenty of people who have become successful without a formal mentorship. But everybody has somebody to learn from, whether it's through lessons or informal interactions. Unless you already have experience, you owe it to yourself to find people who can broaden your perspective and illuminate for you details you'd otherwise miss.