So you want to find a mentor - but what makes up the 'right' mentor for you, and how should you approach them (as well as the mentoring relationship in general)? Timothy Arnoo is the founder of Fanbytes, helping some of the world's biggest brands use Snapchat to connect with consumers. Here are his tips for getting real value out of your mentoring experience.
Throughout my short entrepreneurial life I’ve been fortunate to have had some pretty crazy experiences, from starting companies at 14 all the way through to selling my first company at 17. At 22, I now head up Fanbytes, helping the worlds biggest brands like Universal, Warner, Sony reach younger audiences on Snapchat. Due to this, I’m often asked by my peers what I owe this all to. Invariably, I dedicate a lot of my "success" to mentors and having a close network of people who I can draw advice from. Mentorship, to me, is the world's biggest cheat sheet. A great mentor can provide a playbook of sorts, a tried and tested methodology that when replicated will likely yield similar results. You can avoid the majority of mistakes you would have made yourself and instead get to the end goal quicker, easier and with much less stress. This, to me sums up why mentors are important. In this post, I’ll give my top tips on how to approach mentorship.
Select mentors thematically
So, we know mentorship is important. But how do we go about locating and choosing what types of mentors we'd like? I approach mentoring by looking at it thematically and asking myself two questions: ‘what skills do I want to learn?’. Then, ‘who are the smart people in my network that I can replicate?’ This is a variation on the typical mentorship idea, where one models their life on the lives of those smart successful individuals they aspire to be. Although there is indeed value in generalised mentoring, I think that maximum value comes from specific tailored mentoring. A great example of this is the way I picked up sales. One of our investors at Fanbytes, Toby Austin, is a whiz at building sales teams and has built his company, Beauhurst, up through understanding the dynamics of B2B sales. Despite his numerous talents, I realised that I needed to be good at sales, so this was the exact skill I wanted to learn from him. I don’t particularly believe in general mentoring, as I think being razor-focused and specific about what you need to learn is key.
Pick a mentor just a few steps ahead of you
Many great mentors out there exist, all in varying degrees of success. Often, it’s important to select someone who is professionally a few levels above you.
They’ll likely remember the situations and the exact environment you’re working in much more clearly than an industry giant, so will give you tips that are much actionable for you individually. You’ll also connect to them more clearly, have the confidence to ask them them the gritty questions, and discuss the minor details that you may struggle to do with somebody that you idolise greatly. So go and find that mentor that you wish to be in 3-5 years time.
Find a mentor by understanding your worth
The key to creating successful mentorships is to offer reciprocal value. Rather than just asking someone to help or mentor you, approach them from the angle of exchanging value - giving your potential mentor something which is of value to them. Typically, this won't be monetary - in fact, successful people value differing perspectives and as a young person the best thing you can offer is a unique perspective from a youth angle. Often the attitude of you as the mentee can inspire the mentor to keep working with you; your energetic zest can create a drive and excitement that can also boost them professionally. Sometimes, even the simple feeling of ‘giving something back’ can encourage a mentor to offer their time. Appreciate the sheer amount of value you can bring to the table.
Broaden your definition of a mentor-mentee situation
A mentor needn't be someone you meet in person and needn't even be someone who knows you. A number of times I have reached out to successful individuals in specific topics and, through stating what I can also bring to the table, I have been able to score an hour’s Skype call which has led to heaps of insight. I have also engaged with a number of successful people through Facebook posts, videos and articles, enough to consider them mentors, although social media has been the medium for all of our interactions. The beauty of living in a fiercely digital world is that everybody is simply just a few clicks away. The belief that mentoring occurs over a coffee are long gone. Use the online tools around you to contact them.
Get the most value from a mentor
If you want to get the best out of a mentor, then the trick is not to model what they actually do, but rather how they construct frameworks to reach results. Every situation is different and your particular scenario will invariably be different. Consequently, when engaging with a mentor and approaching questions, one should frame the question with the intent of learning from their past experiences and applying them to yourself. For example, if you had a mentor and needed some help with fundraising your first round of money, rather than asking what you should personally do to raise money, ask "How did you raise your first round of money?"
So what does make a good mentor and how can you get the best from them? Understand what makes a good mentor, pick them thematically and appreciate your key goals and pick mentors accordingly. Pick individuals who are just a few degrees above you professionally and make sure you bring something to the table, but don’t shy away from pure digital interactions. Knowledge that changes your business can come from all mediums when you have focused goals and great mentors.
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