Why Mentors are critical to your success, and how to find them.

TJ Waldorf
Reading Time: 3 minutes


“Mentors are everywhere. Look for them, learn from them.” ~Beth Comstock

This recent Facebook post by Beth Comstock, former Vice Chair at GE, prompted me to think about how important mentors have been in my life and career.

These two sentences perfectly encapsulate my thinking on the subject. There are many people that have paved paths ahead of me and I want to learn as much as I can from them. I ultimately want to blaze my own trail, but if I can accelerate that blazing through strong mentorship, I’m going to do it.

Here’s the key lesson I learned very quickly: Successful people want to share their stories and they want to help others. You just have to ask.

I’ve been fortunate to have established a number of incredible relationships with mentors with different backgrounds, experiences, and skill sets. All of which started with a simple outreach asking for their help. I will share more on this later in this post.

Successful people want to share their stories and they want to help others. You just have to ask.

Each time I connected with a mentor, I had a problem I was trying to solve and wanted to make sure I had the best inputs possible to solve it. So I asked myself this question: Who has solved this before me? From there I’d do some research on the topic, see who has written or spoken about it, then absorb the content in its entirety. Then, if I felt I could deepen my understanding of a particular topic through a direct conversation, I would reach out to the person and ask for help.

Here’s the tactical advice on connecting with someone you admire and want to learn from:

  • If you are connected in some way to the person (2nd or 3rd degree LI connection), ask for a warm intro when possible. If you don’t have any connections, that’s fine.
  • Reference a piece (or pieces) or content you found helpful and explain that you’d like to connect with the person to learn more about XYZ topic. (this is important to show you’ve invested time in doing some of your own research).
  • Share, briefly, the problem you are trying to solve and why it prompted you to reach out to this person in particular.
  • Make a specific request. Ask for feedback, ask for a time to talk, ask if they’d be open to providing feedback from time to time. Just ask.
  • Lastly, acknowledge that you understand they are likely very busy and that it’s okay if they do not have time for this type of engagement. In other words, I’d rather them let me know it’s not a good fit vs me not knowing at all.

I can only think of one instance where I reached out to someone and they said they simply did not have time. No hard feelings, and I moved on.

Having great mentors has been a game changer for my career. I feel like I have been able to grow at a faster rate than I would have been able to otherwise.

“Mentors are everywhere. Look for them, learn from them.” ~Beth Comstock

If one of my mentors reads this (you know who you are), Thank you! Thank you for everything you’ve taught me, the challenging questions you ask, and the invaluable insights you’ve shared with me. I hope to pay it forward.

If you have questions about where to look for great mentors, I’m here to help.

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