Small Business Today Magazine MAR 2016 AMERICAN SERVICES - Page 25

EDITORIAL FEATURE Networking with Mentors By Gail Stolzenburg I f you asked successful networkers what was the most important action they took to learn how to network, many of them would tell you it was finding a mentor. Why a mentor for networking? Networking is about making connections and exchanging information to develop mutually beneficial relationships. Does it make sense that someone who could help you understand the process, increase your self confidence, and determine the best places for you to network would be beneficial? So, begin by asking yourself, “Why?” What benefits would you derive from having a mentor? You may just want someone to guide you or show you how to eliminate making the same errors as others have. Maybe you want introductions to other entrepreneurs or groups. You may have heard the saying, “It is lonely at the top”. There are many successful people who are willing to share their secrets for success just to have someone listen. How do you find a mentor for networking? The obvious answer is networking to find a networking mentor. That means attending networking events. But first, you need to determine what type of person you want as a mentor and why they will want to spend time with you, particularly if there is no compensation. The qualifications for a mentor, for any type of mentor, shoud include the following: • Someone who has started in a lesser position than you and become successful. • • Someone who is involved in the same or similar business as you. Someone who is willing to share their experiences with you and give you direction. You may have difficulty finding all the attributes you want in one person. There are no rules which say you are unable to have multiple mentors, if you find you need them. It would be like having an advisory board of directors. Some people have found going online is a very helpful starting point in finding mentors. You’ll find webinars, virtual mentor chats, community events, and local workshops in major cities. Using Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google can result in finding mentors at no cost. Many successful people have used online mentors without ever meeting them in person. Search for specific groups that have similar interest to yours. Once you have found them, meeting them face-to-face will be most helpful. Think of it like a job interview. Put together the list of questions you want to ask and learn everything you can about the person before you broach the subject of mentorship. There are also organizations such as SCORE that have volunteer advisors to help you develop a practical action plan, education, and tools you need to open your doors and establish a networking base. One alternative is a mastermind group or peer group which can be very helpful in networking. The final suggestion is to volunteer your services to an organization whose membership contains the type of mentor for which you are searching. As You may have difficulty finding all the attributes you want in one person. There are no rules which say you are unable to have multiple mentors, if you find you need them. you work together on projects helping others, you can build a relationship which may develop into a mentorship. How do you ask someone to be your mentor? Instead of asking someone outright to mentor you, use networking philosophy – the law of reciprocity. Find out what is important in their life, something they need, and then help them get it. It may be as simple as providing small services for them so you’ll come to their attention. Then you can ask their advice on some aspect of networking and the relationship can build from there. Relationships which develop gradually can become stronger long term relationships. A word of caution - some mentor/mentee relationships may be unsuccessful. You’ll need an exit strategy to utilize without damaging the relationship. That’s a good reason to have a number of people (prospective mentors) on which you can call. So, during your next conversation, start asking questions that will lead you to getting the mentor that is best for you. SBT Gail “The Connector” Stolzenburg’s new book, “CONNECTIONS: Contacts to Clients”, was recently released. For more information, Gail can be contacted by phone at 281-493-1955, by email at Gail@GailStolzenburg.com, or visit his website at www.GailStolzenburg.com. [ MARCH 2016 ] WWW.SBTMAGAZINE.NET 23