- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009

How to find and keep a mentor involved in your life.

1. Look for someone who shares your interests _ do your research to find out whom it would make sense for you to seek out. David Neverson didn’t track down Ken Allen, that was a fortuitous meeting, but the two connected for the long-term over a minority-recruiting project, which they were both passionate about, that only lasted a couple months.

2. Moreover, figure out how you can be a benefit to your potential mentor. “You need to have reciprocal value,” said Kim Post, vice president at management consulting firm Global Lead LLC. For instance, Gary Hirshberg began advising Seth Goldman and ended up an investor in a successful tea business.

3. Be your own best salesperson and have specific goals you’d like the mentor to help you address. You want an older, wiser person to help you down a planned path. When interacting with younger entrepreneurs, Hirshberg got turned off by those who didn’t know their business and couldn’t answer his questions about cash flow. Goldman already had a well-thought-out product and sought specific help from Hirshberg on how to deal with venture capital.

4. Some organizations set up new employees with mentors, as in Helena Yoon’s case. For others who have to pursue their own guides, be aggressive enough to get someone to meet with you, but don’t stalk, Post said. Suggest lunches and casual meeting dates, growing the camaraderie before broaching a conversation about a more-formal relationship.

Once a connection is established, keep talking.

While Neverson said Allen was often the one to reach out to him, he kept track of how often they were speaking. “You got to be cognizant of a lot of time passing,” he said.

Goldman and Hirshberg have a scheduled monthly phone call, a “consistent way for me to keep him updated on the business and what’s going on, but also personal things,” Goldman said.

5. The two individuals must trust one another for a relationship to continue _ as well as continue to develop their friendship by keeping in touch. In a successful duo, “If I put my faith in you and give you advice, you’re going to take that advice,” Post said.

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