Wednesday, January 22, 2014

9 Steps To Meeting Mentors That Just Might Change Your Life.

This time last year I worked in a parking garage.

For two years prior to that I worked in a different parking garage.

Riveting stuff.

These days though, I've got a pretty cool set up.  I do marketing for a local orchestra in town, I'm a Teaching Artist (TA) for Tune Up Philly, a sub TA for the Philadelphia Orchestra, and get to do lots of really awesome freelance stuff around town.  It's all very flexible and I'm very much in control of my own schedule.

Just about every single one of these new opportunities has come along with the help of a mentor.

Now, I by no means have an extravagant life, but I definitely am in much better shape financially, professionally, and emotionally than I was a year ago.  It's actually a really simple process that any student or someone looking to transition can follow to get results for themselves.  

Here are a few steps:

1.  Reach out before you need help.  

If you know you want a big life change to take place in the future, plan ahead.  Whether you're wanting to start a new job, graduating college, or moving to a new city, be aware that very rarely do things just work out immediately for anyone.  The people who succeed are the ones that have had a plan in place and followed it.  

In terms of mentors, this means planting the seeds of a potential new relationship long before you hope to get anything from them.  No one is going to just take some random-ass person under their wing without knowing a little something about them and how they work.

2.  Appeal to their own interests.

People won't do just anyone a favor.  When you're approaching someone, you should always try to interest them by having something to offer them.

Hint:  A simple way to stay on people's radar is to send them interesting articles/book recommendations that you think they might be interested in.  It's free to you and it's a good way to "ping" people without seeming like a bother.

3.  Create a ladder to climb higher.  

Everyone wants the brilliant thinkers of their industry to mentor them, but if you just start tweeting at them out of nowhere, you'll get nowhere fast.

Instead, start lower on the totem pole with mentors and work your way up from there.  People just a few years older than you can show you the ropes and might be able to help you break in to the next level of connections.  Find a way that you can add value to them and they'll probably be happy to share their wisdom they've learned (they also remember what's it's like!).  Before you know it you'll be introduced to many more people.

4.  Be ready to put in the time.  

Most people are lazy and don't want to put in the time to learn.  If you want to get the most out of these connections and really dig in to everything they've got to offer, spend as much time with and around them as possible.  I used to get up to go to assemblies/board meetings/staff meetings/anything to get to know the environment.  

If people see that you're serious about learning and willing to put in the time, they'll know that you're someone that can be depended on to work hard.  Trust is absolutely necessary.

5.  Return the favors by making them look good.

If you've done it right, you'll eventually find yourself caught up in world that you would've never thought accessible.  Mentors will open doors for you that you could never gain access to alone.  Whether it's access to their networks, a job, or a great reference, they'll have done you a lot of favors over time.

With this in mind, you should know that the best way to repay your mentors is to do a killer job and make sure you show them they're not wasting their time and energy on you.  Make them happy they invested in you and you'll continue reaping the benefits of a good relationship for a long time.

Fun fact:  The parking garage I used to work at was for a private club in town.  Less than 6 months after leaving that job, I'm now attending events there instead of working in the garage.  I'm not bragging, but I wanted to provide an example of how effective this stuff can be.

6.  Don't worry about the money.  

Find ways to make ends meet, but there are infinitely more important things to be gained with a good mentor.

7.  Be strategic with who you're reaching out to.  

Do some research in your space and learn who would be a good fit for you.  It'd be a major bummer to invest time in something that didn't yield the results you want.

8.  Manage your expectations of people.  

If you find yourself in the position of getting a really high profile person taking interest in you, understand that they're extremely busy and that you'll have to use what time you get with them wisely.

9.  Don't ask them to be your mentor. 

Would you go up to a hot girl/guy at a bar and ask them to be your boy/girlfriend?

Maybe you would...I hope not though.

You'd look like a total doof and get shut down immediately.  Let the relationship develop naturally without slapping a presumptuous label on something.

There are plenty of other things to be explored in this topic, but I think this is enough for now.  I wrote this post because it's something that has REALLY made a huge difference in my life and I hope it will help others do the same.  

If you've got any questions or thoughts post them in the comments below.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What we can all learn from 50 Cent, Jane Goodall, and best selling authors.

What do 50 Cent, Jane Goodall, and best selling authors like Ryan Holiday, Remit Sethi ,and Tim Ferriss all have in common?

Probably a lot more than we would think, but what I'm referring to is one of the things that sent all of them over the top in the careers and could do the same for us.  The thing I'm specifically referring to is their unique ability of getting to know their environments from the inside out to effectively achieve their goals, whether that's selling music, studying apes, or selling millions of books.

So what does that even mean?

What makes each of these totally different individuals wildly successful is that each of them has an uncanny understanding of the audience they're targeting.  We live in a culture that is always looking for the easy way of doing everything and because of this, most of us never actively develop the skills (or just are too lazy to) necessary to invest time, energy and other resources in to doing a totally amazing job in getting to know something.

Goodall lived in the jungle, 50 Cent created a website specifically to interact with his fans directly, and all the authors I mentioned are masters of understanding the desires of their audiences.  Every time you go make a pitch to your boss, write up a proposal for work, or even try just drum up some freelance work for yourself, if you take the time to really get to know your audience, you'll have infinitely better results.

Even if it means volunteering your time and resources, the return on truly knowing what they want and desire is worth more than you'd think.  Just think if you knew exactly what your potential client, your boss, or even your family and friends were thinking before even making your pitch for whatever it is.  Understand what motivates, intrigues, and moves people is infinitely applicable in everyday life.

I think we've all got a list of people a mile long we could communicate with better or things we could more thoroughly understand.

What's yours?

P.S.--- In case anyone is wondering where I got the title from, I have been reading The 50th Law by Robert Green and 50 Cent.  It's an excellent read on living life fearlessly.