Ten Ways To Prepare To Meet Your Mentor

“My son ask for thyself another
Kingdom, for that which I leave
is too small for thee”
(King Philip of Macedonia – 339 B.C.)

Isn’t that a great mentor? Very motivational… And his student – in this case his son – executed beautifully.

I learnt that quote from the Iron Maiden song ‘Alexander The Great’, by the way. It always stuck in my mind. Why? Because it truly shows you much a mentor can help you “think big”.

How can you meet the “mentor of your dreams”? Of course, you could just walk up at a conference and introduce yourself. Cold.

That will be successful. In about 1 out of 1,000 attempts. Maybe more.

Even if you are successful though, the time may be wasted, because it comes out of the blue.

Your coveted mentor may not have enough time, you have to first explain how why you would talk to him or her, and most importantly: despite a few compliments, you can really not give much of value yourself.

So be well prepared. A great mentor can give you a huge boost in success and reveal a significant shortcut in your work and career.

And as with any “overnight success event” in life comes a long time of preparation beforehand.

James Altucher also covers some ideas about mentors on a recent post about reinventing yourself.

And here is a guest post on Bold and Determined that tells you how to – well – get people to do what you want 😉

Meet Your Mentor Military
A mentor can show you the way if you are respectful and listen.

#1 – Read all his books, his websites etc.

This almost goes without saying. You need to know about your mentor. Why else would you be interested in meeting?

It also has the following additional positive effects:
(a) you will be able to answer a lot of your initial questions already;
(b) you will be able to ask a much more specific or even new question;
(c) you will see how this mentor ‘ticks’ – you will get the best idea how to meet.

Maybe he constantly talks about how he rarely has enough time for a coffee in between and rather schedules a longer block of time for meeting.

Maybe he frequently talks about how he went out to a bar with a couple of people from the audience after giving a presentation. That alone will give you great ideas to meet.

If you want to do anything in preparation for meeting your mentor, let ‘study him and his material’ be it. Because even if you don’t manage to meet him or her, you will basically profit already from his advice.

#2 – Execute on his or her advice.

Want to impress a potential mentor? Ask for advice, then implement the advice and report back how it went.

People love to hear that someone followed the advice they gave. So many guys just ask and never follow through. In that case, asking a question seems to be a substitute for action, I guess? Or worse, they decide ‘it’s not for them’ and don’t take the advice.

In the worst case, people talk back. You give them advice, then they start saying “yes, but this does not work for me” for bullshit reason xyz. Somebody who just follows advice is a breath of fresh air!

#3 – Look for a need he may have.

Maybe you see that his website needs an upgrade and you could provide that for him? Or maybe you can offer to put his website into an eBook.

Again, point #1 becomes clear – recognizing which needs your potential mentor has reveals itself from his writings. Often in terms of a picture that emerges, sometimes even stated clearly!

For example, Mike Cernovich once had a complete list of services he needed. He may still need some of them.

#4 – Ask other people your mentor already taught.

It is sometimes simply difficult to get on someone’s radar because of the huge number of requests he or she is getting.

If someone has hundreds of thousands of subscribers to his blog, he is basically similar to an editor of a major newspaper. You wouldn’t simply send a letter to the editor of the Washington Post and hope he answers you, right?

Instead, connect with people that are connected to your mentor of choice and that ideally he or she follows. For example, check the “links” site on his blog – that will give you a good overview of who he holds in high regards.

Some of those connections may have a low follower count and may be more accessible.

Build a relationship with those. They can then recommend you ‘upwards’ and give you access.

And who knows, that very connection may be even more profitable in your future than the one with your coveted mentor?

I have a similar example from my own career. In 2001, I joined Carl-Philipp Heisenberg‘s group to do my PhD. Carl-Philipp was starting his lab, and I prospered greatly under his mentorship and had a very productive and successful four years.

And Carl-Philipp personally knew Eric Wieschaus in Princeton. I doubt whether I could have joined Eric’s lab out of the blue – being a noble prize winner and all, but Carl-Philipp recommended me and Eric accepted me into his lab.

#5 – Create buzz.

Don’t find the mentor, let him find you.

Get on the radar of as many people in his niche as possible. Provide excellent content, do great deals and establish your name in your field.

Next time you are on a conference, your coveted mentor will more likely agree to meet you for coffee, because you have already contributed value to your field. He will be more inclined to listen to you.

Sure, you can go to any conference and simply talk to him cold.

But if you are not even a “blip” on his radar, chances of him talking to you over coffee are actually slim.

#6 – Look at the person

Every mentor is used to people pitching themselves to him based on his professional status.

Far fewer people are able to connect on a “human” level.

People are not only defined by their business plans. They have families, hobbies, places they like etc.

Look out for anything that could connect you on a personal level.

For example, maybe the guy has just given a talk and you learnt that he grew up in this or that town.

Or he mentions how he got his latest idea while vacationing in Spain.

And voilà, maybe you have visited Spain frequently as well!

So now you have something to connect to him that is NOT based on his professional acumen.

If you have read everything about him beforehand, as recommended in #1 above, you will know a lot of these small details already.

Don’t be try-hard and convince the person that you are a diehard fan of this or that football team in his home town or how Spain is the best country in the world or anything like that.

Just imagine your mentor as a normal human being you just like to meet, and talk about some things you have in common outside from work. That will make a much better personal connection than talking about business first.

#7 – Be relentless.

You might have to try quite a bit to get him or her to agree to meet with you.

There are lots of stories how somebody was relentless and called or sent flowers to his office daily until the other person caved and made the deal.

I would not recommend sending daily flowers to meet your mentor, but make an effort to stay on that person’s radar, for example, by sending eMails in regular intervals or commenting on their blog once a week.

Be respectful, but also don’t be shy: The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

#8 – Become their go-to-person at meetings.

During conferences, the organizers are often looking for people to pick the speakers up from the hotel room, drive them from meeting to meeting and make sure they have someone to contact. There is your chance!

Volunteer for a conference your coveted mentor is speaking at.

When you pick up your mentor, be a 100% reliable person, talk a bit about yourself and observe.

The small details often matter most. For example, if the person asks for a water bottle at one time, have a water bottle ready when you pick them up again the next day.

By displaying yourself as reliable, you will build up trust. The sad notion that people nowadays are not very observant works in your favor here – if you pay attention, you stand out a lot.

In “Think Big and Kick Ass”, Donald Trump mentions several times that he tends to promote people from within his organization, rather than risk hiring someone new that he never interacted with before.

Building up trust is immensely important.

#9 – Find the right love language

Everyone expresses his appreciation in different ways. Some people like words of praise, others like gifts; a third group of people values acts of service, some like to spend quality time – and some people prefer physical contacts – frequent handshakes, pads on the shoulder etc.

When you read more about the person you want to win as a mentor (as explained in #1 above), also figure out in which way he or she prefers to be treated.

#10 – Be brief and respectful of their time and status.

When you meet your prospective mentor, you may be inclined to really “milk” the situation. Don’t. Talk about a question or two.

Maybe you have the opportunity to ask more later on. The time a mentor gives you is a gift. Not asking for attention is actually a good way to get more later on.


If you want to check out “Become an Idea Machine”, you can do so here.

Yesterday’s challenge: Click me!

What is this challenge about? This link will teach you more.

And to get back to the main page, you can click here.

Do you know an additional way to prepare for meeting your mentor?

Are you even a mentor yourself?

Thanks for reading and let me know in the comments below!

(Image taken from Wikimedia Commons.)