It is possible to get a lot out of a mentor or get just a feeling of general encouragement. The second you can also get from your friends and family, so let’s concentrate on how to get the first. Ways to make mentoring sessions more useful. Mentors are usually there for a reason. Either they have great knowledge, experience or networks. The trick is to know what to ask for. This makes the process enjoyable for both the mentor and the mentee. Everyone feels good and gets to contribute to the best of their capacity. So what are the steps to achieve this?
1. Study the mentor’s background beforehand
Knowing your audience is always important. Knowing a mentors background can be crucial for the potential added value. You can get information on a mentor from their social media profiles or by just googling them. The aspects to look at are previous employers, if they have founded startups themselves and also who do they know. All these 3 aspects can prove useful for you when putting together your questions. Some mentors are hard core experts in a specific field, others have superb founder experience. Both are useful, but also good to know beforehand.
2. Have your questions ready
Every mentor has a speciality. The same one you hopefully discovered when doing the research mentioned above. So why have them give you general feedback, when you can tap into their real speciality. Have your questions ready. You can even go to super specifics by showing your code or analytics or other plans. Think how you can get the most out of the mentor instead of just getting a general encouraging pat on the back.
3. Let mentors do most of the talking
Startups need to pitch. Startups need to practice pitching a lot. Is a mentoring session a good place to do that? Probably not. It is important to get the pitch delivered fast and go straight to the questions. As a rule of thumb, the mentor has to be speaking 80% of any mentoring session. You have heard your voice enough, now get their input.
4. Ask for intros
The more experienced the mentor, the wider their own networks. Perhaps they know someone you are trying to reach out to. Maybe they know someone who could be your client. Some might be able to offer you intros to businesses in similar stage of development that you can learn from. It is always good to ask for intros to specific people, but why not also in general. Do you know anyone who this might be useful to? Do you know a specialist on a topic we are struggling with? etc etc
5. Agree on next steps
If the mentor is useful (and usually they are), be sure to hang on to them somehow. Firstly connect on Linkedin so you always have access to them and you can also see who else they know. If you already have some things areed during the session, make action points out of them. Make a list of the tips/intros/articles or other the mentor agreed to share with you and be sure to follow up with an email. Also ask for the mentor’s permission to add him to your mailing list. Providing you have one of course. This might be a good way to keep your startup at the back of their mind all the time. Never know when it becomes useful.
These are a few ways to make mentoring sessions more useful, so use them and success will follow. Well not really but it is a start to be organised and do things on purpose.