by Anisha Oberoi, CEO & Founder of Secret Skin
Whether you’re a young professional or budding entrepreneur, having mentors and advisors (ie your own brand ambassadors) who can guide you on your personal journey, navigate challenges together and open doors can greatly amplify your efforts in your early years.
Don’t know where to start? Here’s my personal checklist!
What is the avatar of the person who inspires you? Is it a female C-Suite executive from the Corporate world, a sportsperson, a musician, or a successful entrepreneur? What personal values attract you, what about the person do you look up to, or aspire to be? Are you curious about how they did it and wish that you could learn the ropes from them?
Make a list of people within your immediate industry that fall in the above category; if they are not first-degree contacts ask your connections for warm introductions.
Introduce with a short blub on yourself and why you are reaching out, what do you hope to achieve.
Often enough, an ideal advisor is from a similar industry as your own line of work and can help guide you towards making the right business decisions from their experience.
For example, if you want to build a career progression path within the consumer goods industry, look for professionals with a known track record in FMCG or Retail.
Someone who has built businesses in their career can guide you on structural profitability, budget management and help fast track your understanding across parameters including hiring decisions.
Mentors are not managers. Their knowledge is transferrable but the impetus of action lies on you! You hold the steering wheel in the relationship.
The golden rule of Getting Ahead: Network, Network, Network. Don’t say no to meeting people and to opportunities to engage with a new audience.
Go to events where potential advisors are speaking, or sign up to their zoom events so that you can seed a connect by asking relevant questions.
Commenting on their Linkedin or social feed with a thoughtful message with reference to the thread or DM’ing them will always get you noticed.
Research them well before engaging, this shows that you are genuinely interested in their lives and accomplishments.
Elon Musk is a great visionary to aspire to, but chances are you won’t have him as a mentor. I’ve always believed a mentor needs to be relatable, like a more upskilled, elevated version of your highest self, personal or professional. Be vulnerable and vocally self-critical about where the gaps lie, and how they can help bridge them. I always walk away empowered after my mentor meetings: armed with a set of action items and brimming with confidence and determination to surge forward. The right advisor will inflate your vision with realistic encouragement and brainstorm on innovative ideas, not deplete your energy with doubt and nay-saying.
Often people say Yes out of politeness, when asked to be a mentor. It’s flattering indeed, but it comes with immense responsibility. Will they have time for you? Have honest conversations about what their involvement would look like, and put a framework around the guidance that is needed.
Block recurring invites on their calendar and politely check beforehand if they can still make it. Always pay for coffee.
Ask directly if they expect to be compensated, and be honest to yourself whether you can afford it. If you want to invite someone to be a board member for eg, then expect to give advisory equity. Otherwise, the best mentors offer their time and counsel for free.
Value anyone who supports you with nothing to gain from it. Look for advisors as you look for life partners: they should be ‘attracted’ and ‘attractive’ to you. Remember that the greatest commodity a successful person has, is time. By committing to a schedule to share their experience, answer your questions and to help you navigate roadblocks, their only hope is to see you evolve and succeed so that their contribution can be justified.
Respect their time, share meeting notes, send regular updates on your traction and circle back on anything that they may have suggested.
Remember birthdays. Keep them in the loop with what’s happening.