Last week I posted part 2 in a 3 part series about where you go to put your networking skills to practice. The idea of the series of posts was inspired by my paralegal/legal assistant, who I asked, “what would you want to know about networking?” Her response was, “Where do you find people to network with?” I like to make any entry about networking goal oriented.
I usually find people network in a business setting for 3 key things (a person’s goal for networking):
With that in mind, this week I am continuing with part 3, about finding your networking opportunity in order to find mentors.
Why Find A Mentor?
One thing that I have found to be one of the best takeaways in my work with startup companies is that the startup culture puts a high premium on finding a mentor. I think it is an amazingly overlooked concept. In whatever endeavor you are pursuing I think it is invaluable to find someone who is willing to give you their time and wisdom.
Where To Find Mentors
Finding a mentor is a little more personal than finding a client or job, in my opinion. If you are looking for a mentor, target leaders in your profession and whose story you can identify with. So where do I like finding these people? Here is a listing:
1) Alumni Associations – Many undergraduate and graduate alumni associations have events which bring out a myriad of people. Going this route, it is important to find a person who is in the industry you are pursuing or considering pursuing. People feel a great kinship to fellow alums. I connected with my attorney mentor by having a shared law school link when we randomly met in New York at a conference. His mentorship has been invaluable.
2) Conferences – I have written about this previously. Conferences are great places to find mentors. In this case though rather than working the halls, if I want a mentor I scour the speaker and panelist list and look for who I would like to befriend. I approach someone before their panel and after if possible. I like to follow up a few days later and ask this person to coffee. I did this once with an executive at Universal Music and he has been an amazing entertainment industry mentor for years.
3) Business Leagues – What is a business league? Think chamber of commerce or peer groups like one we have in Austin called the Young Mens Business League. These organizations have frequent networking events and mixers, as well as galas. Here you frequently find people who are in your industry who can mentor you for your career. These groups generally have gregarious people willing to give of their time. So go out and find a mentor.
4) Professional/Peer Organizations – So, groups I consider to be professional organizations are peer professional groups. In my case they are the American Bar Association and State Bar of Texas. Whatever industry you are in also has its own organization of peers. Often you will find someone with more experience who will be happy to be a mentor to you in your career. I have found several great ones in my state’s bar association and now I have begun to mentor others.
As with finding a job or clients, the above list is not exhaustive, but I like bringing up some ideas on where you might find your next best opportunity to network for a mentor. Do you have some suggestions? Please comment.