Getting a mentor is at the heart of succeeding after college. Wrangling a mentor is a major career boosting event. By wrangling, I mean to conjure up images or wrestling with a person’s Gcal in order to get time, attention, and energy.

Mentorship is such an emotionally charged topic. Some common questions I will attempt to solve: How do I get on the calendar of a person who has a super packed schedule? How do you initially meet your mentor? What role does my non-existent social media presence play in reaching out to someone very influential?

#1  Planes, Trains and Automobiles

We still use paper letters, paper notes, phones, emails, fax and business cards. Yes, fax! (Evvia does not use Doordash but accepts fax orders.) Your potential mentor will have a preferred way to speaking with you. Let me stress that all the modes of transportation help get you to your next mentor and your next-next mentor. What I’d like to stress is that your mentor might have the preference to use old fashion smoke signals, and that we, as mentees, are going to have to build a fire, or hook up a facsimile machine.

For example, I met my mentor via snail mail. I wrote out a handwritten letter and put it in a #10 envelope.

For example, another mentor, Ted Rhingold, likes you to like his Twitter likes. And to like the tweets that you would like to network with him about. So instead of setting a pre-meeting agenda via email, you signal an ability to search within a social media feed. You also signal your goals for a potential mentor, your effort to search past writings your mentor has already published, and your future direction.

(This answers the question “How do you initially meet your mentor?”)

#2  Signaling, Execution. 

Your potential mentor wants to meet rising stars. Your mentor will fit time in their schedule when you signal execution. Here is the process:

  1. I, the potential mentee, read what you (the mentor) previously wrote.
  2. I took this very specific and very small action based on a change you inspired me to make.
  3. This is my documentation, via smoke signals, a medium post, or Facebook Instagram story.
  4. This is me emailing you the documentation.
  5. Now, request time over the telephone for a coffee.

(This answers the question, “How do I get on the calendar of a person who has a super-packed schedule”)

#3  Be the Mentee to a Cohort Mentor

So, your cohorts are a great source of peer mentorship. But because of pride, hubris or/and shyness, we do not thank our lowly cohort mentors publicly.

There are four types of mentors:

  • superstar mentors
  • cohort mentors
  • junior mentors
  • default mentors.

People overly stress a superstar mentor, which I define as a brand-named, industry leader. But a cohort mentor (think peer learning) is a great “hack” to prime the mentor pump. Briefly, a junior mentor is someone you outrank but who is nonetheless teaching you. A default mentor is a person who is near you and who mentors you by default: Think family, an assigned work associate, or someone in close proximity who by default fills your head with their opinion(s).

#4  Be the Mentee to Their Mentor. 

You should guess who is your mentor’s mentor. After all, your mentor has risen to superstar mentor level because of having a mentor themselves. Very often your potential mentor thanks and re-thanks their mentor. Thanking a mentor by mentioning them by name in a press interview is a “Mentor Mention Per Press Interview” (MMPPI). Think of running protocol #MMPPI as citing and sourcing.

Think about thanking your mentor like it’s a Venmo payment to your cohorts. You’re letting the world know you pay your friends. “Pay” your mentor by thanking your mentor.

#5  Prime the Mentor Pump by Getting a Faux Mentor

Yes, fake getting a mentor by thanking a mentor. This charlatan maneuver is socially engineered to become real by going through these steps. Let me stress: you’re going from imposter to really-suitable-for-a-poster:

  • Read a book.
  • Apply the book’s knowledge.
  • Thank the mentor.
  • Rethank the mentor.

Your potential mentor did mentor you via their book! Your potential mentor ALREADY did mentor you via their Medium. For example, my potential mentor already did mentor me via a very specific CS183b Lec 5 video. Peter Thiel is speaking in lecture 5; CS 183b “competition is for losers” and that video is free on YouTube.Yesterday at #TokenSummit, I just mentioned by mentor Peter Thiel to two of Peter Thiel’s other mentees…, Vignesh Sundaresan and Haseeb Awan

#6  Loyalty and Thankfulness

Be public about how you thank a mentor:
Verrrrrry often, a person will be shy about thanking a mentor of any stature.
Very often people do not execute a thanking of a mentor.
Very often, people gloss over the importance of thanking a mentor.
I advocate thanking a mentor. It shows thankfulness and loyalty to a person who helped you.


Photo credit: Mona Brooks

About the Author

Larry Chiang, CEO of Duck9, studies how things really start so that we can pay attention to street smart tactics while avoiding clichéd mistakes. See the nuggets of knowledge via hashtags like #cs183a34z, #EUTWMPPM and#GuaGuaGuacamole. His best, signature recipes stem from his mentor’s, Mark McCormack’s, book: ‘What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School

Watch this great short video where Larry and Anna Anisin discuss jedi mentor tips.