• James Walton

Three Principles to Working with a Mentor

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

Highly effective individuals are not self-made.


Therefore, becoming a person of impact and influence requires the presence of mentors in your life.

But how do you find and attract the people into your life who can function as trustworthy guides? I've written before on how to write an effective networking email to get that first meeting and the most effective way to get an invitation to a second meeting. Here's three more key principles to working with a mentor:

Don't ask, "Will you be my mentor?"


Instead, make a specific ask for input on a targeted goal, with timebound parameters. It sounds like: "I'm facing a thorny issue on ______ and I suspect your wisdom and experience could create some clarity for me. Would you be willing to have a 15 minute call on [insert two or three times that would work]? This gives your potential mentor everything they need to know to say yes and eliminates many of the reasons they would say no (ambiguity, fear of being roped into a fog, uncertainty if they can help...)

Seek to add value to the relationship.


Especially if you're early in your career you probably can't return favors with more senior leaders. Instead, make your humility and your ambition the currency you trade with. Honor their time, lead with gratitude, and commit to making a difference with the wisdom they share.

Do something. And let them know you did something.


You had a problem, asked a specific question and hopefully got an actionable answer. Now comes the hard part: implementing the wisdom learned. If they recommended you read a book, buy it, read it, and write a note talking about what you learned and how it's helped you. If they recommended you to talk to someone, make a connection and let the mentor know how their introduction opened a key doorway to your solution. In every case, follow-up the meeting with a note articulating the specific difference their wisdom is making in your life. It's the best way to book a second meeting. What other elements of working with a mentor have you found helpful?



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