How do you find a good mentor?
"We can easily access the wisdom of those who came before us - those whom we aspire to be like."
"We not only owe it to ourselves to seek out this hard-won knowledge, we owe it to the people who took the time to record their expdreinces to try to carry on the traditions and follow their examples - to be the promising children of these noble parents."
Finding good mentors is a really important aspect of career development, and the quotes from The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday remind us that it's vital for our development and those who subsequently follow in our footsteps.
But how do you find good ones?
In my book, You're Hired: an insiders guide to becoming a strength and conditioning coach I explain why you need a good mentor and some simple steps you can take to finding one.
In Michael Heppell's excellent book, How To Be Brilliant: Change Your Ways in 90 Days he points out that you will undoubtedly need to get some additional support when working toward any goal. The fact that you're reading this book confirms that you're more than likely looking for some help to establish yourself as a strength and conditioning coach.
I've been lucky enough to have several mentors throughout the various stages of my career. These are people that I've been able to turn to for help and advice. If you go back to the Influence Matrix, you need to be looking for mentors within your profession that are better than you. Your mates down the pub are probably not going to help!
A good mentor will either be sitting just outside your circle of influence or slap bang in the middle of the movers and shakers quadrant. A good mentor will guide, push, challenge, question and help you achieve your goals. They won't give you an easy ride, that's not what they are there for. Grant Downie describes a good mentor as a 'critical friend'.
They can be within the strength and conditioning profession or outside of it.
I work with Richard Nugent who helps take what I'm doing to the next level from the business side of things. Basically, he's my arse kicker ensuring that it doesn't take another two years to get a book out like it has this one!
HEADS UP...you too may have to pay to spend time with a mentor and that might not sit very well with you. Remember, these are people that will accelerate your develop. The reason you want them as a mentor is because the are successful and that means that they will more than likely be very busy indeed. Pay it forward! Their knowledge could fast track your results. It doesn't always have to be monetary. You could take them for a meal and whilst you're both enjoying the meal you could go through your ideas and questions relating to your development as a strength and conditioning.
â€œNick, could you talk to me over a coffee and give me some pointers on how I go about my accreditation. I can't afford to pay you but I'll come and work at the tennis centre for you for two hours a week.â€
Not only have you just got yourself a mentor you've just thrown some experience in the mix too... and I get help at the tennis centre.
Remember, athletes have coaches and coaches need coaches too. It's no different. We all need people who have the ability to help us, people that will fast forward past problems so you don't have to take fifteen years to work them out by yourself.
I'm telling you now.
You need a mentor(s).
Here are my key things to think about when finding a mentor (each of these points is expanded on in the book).
1. People do business with people they like - 99% of the time people will do business with people they like. The odd 1% of the time they will work with people they don't really like but more often than not, friendship is of paramount importance.
2. Establish friendship fast - What makes a friendship? Common ground. I guarantee you can find something in common with every single one of your connections.
3. Develop trust - If you betray someone's trust you've severed that connection. It's gone, there's no getting it back now.
4. Give to receive - if you want to establish a connection with a mentor you need to give. It could be financial, it could be a coffee or it could be your time and help.
5. Never eat alone - there are always opportunities for you to take someone for a coffee, or have a meal with them.
Take those opportunities to sit down with people.
6. Follow up - if you've met a potential mentor at work or a conference, follow that initial meeting up quickly within twelve to twenty four hours with a simple e-mail or call.
What do you think, have I missed anything that you think will help establish a productive working relationship with a new mentor?