It is too generic to say “I need a mentor.”  One question to answer is whether you require formal, long-term guidance, or need support with one-time needs such as developing a system for writing proposals, or advice on how to obtain a TEDx talk opportunity.  

To clarify the best mentor type that would be helpful at this point in time, think about what challenges you are facing. You may actually need more than one type of mentor, but knowing what you are looking for will give you a better chance of finding the best person or people to help you. 

Three different roles a mentor can play are: Coach, Sponsor, Connector. 

Coaching can empower you to improve your performance in just about any area of life. A coach mentors you by listening as you share your challenges, goals, perceived obstacles, and personal and professional strengths. More than giving advice or knowledge, a coach helps you to see both the big picture and the next specific actions you need to take.

A sponsor is a senior person, a Big Shot who has already earned significant credibility and the influence that comes with it. Because of their standing, a recommendation or endorsement from them can help you to be taken seriously even as an unknown. I know a sponsor who (in one 45-second phone call) got someone selected for a Non-profit’s Board of Directors.

Some people are natural connectors. It’s great to know connectors. Not only do they have an impressive database (literal or figurative) of people and resources, their mind seems to be constantly at work to discover potential relationships and make connections. I like to think it is true that anyone is “six degrees or less” of a relationship distance from anyone else. When you have a good relationship with a connector, it could be more like two degrees! 

Having these distinctions should help you 1) Find a mentor who has the characteristics you need at present, and 2) Understand which type of mentoring you are most interested in providing to others.  

Check out Barbara Dee’s Master Class for Thought Leaders who want to write a book.

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