1. Make a List - check it twice
Write down 10 people you admire and would love to talk to. Go on...dream big and write down the names of people you are thinking of right now - the CEO, top exec, the person who holds the position you are dying to have. Want to be the VP of Programming at Comedy Central? Why not add that individual to your list? Who would know how to get there better than the individual who is there now? Once you have the "big guy" list, think through the realistic possibilities and refine it a bit. It may be a challenge to reach certain people in top positions, so you may have to connect with people around them instead. Maybe you can't connect with the VP of Programming at Comedy Central, but perhaps a director or a manager on his or her team can offer you key advice and valuable guidance.
If you have 30 names, narrow them down to 10 and prioritize them.
2. Solidify your pitch:
Before you go chasing your Top 10 - chillax for a sec and prepare. You get one opportunity to make a first impression...cliché, but true. So write out your “script.” Why do you want to speak with him/her? Let’s get detailed and break down what you’re passionate about, where you are in your career or life, what your goals are, what you are doing to get to that destination, etc. Throw it all together to create a mini Self-Portrait of yourself. Some call this the 30-second elevator pitch. It will constantly evolve so continue to tweak it, but always have something ready -- you never know when that opportunity will present itself. Crystallize the vision and wording and get it down rock solid before making the connection.
3. Find them on Social Media
You know how to do this:
LinkedIn - Look them up under “people.” Before going the stranger way and sending a Connection Invite, check to see if any of your current connections can do an “introduction” to your Top 10. If not, do the invite and personalize it. You can do this by finding a common connection (organization, group, school, purpose in life, goals, place of residence, grew up in…, or any other connection you can find).
Facebook – Be present on their Page (not on their personal account). Comment and like their content – make yourself relevant. Then after a few days or weeks you can send a message following the structure in step 4.
Twitter - Follow them and the people they are following. Retweet the content you really like and reply to them on occasion to become top of mind. They may not see you on Twitter if they have thousands of followers, so just be patient and don’t overdo it. You want them as your mentor for a reason – they’re probably in the circles you’d like to reach. So be professional and not obsessed. If and when the timing is right, you may want to send a Direct Message (you can’t send a DM unless they are following you).
4. Reach out and touch - Make it Happen!
Send them a direct message through email or through social media.
You want to make this message short and specific. Share your connection in the first line and the reason you are connecting. Then compliment them on something you admire about them or their career and say that you are looking for a mentor to help you achieve X (be specific). You want them to know you personally selected them as someone you can learn from. Finish the introduction with a call to action. “Would you be willing to have a brief conversation on Tuesday at 10am or 1pm?” This way you are being clear on how you want them to respond.
As stated above, be bold, specific, and brief with your introduction and meeting request. Remember that most people want to share their knowledge with rising talent. Talk them up in your invite and share a preview of your script. Honesty is best and saying “I’d love to learn from you” is really effective because it’s sincere and flattering.
5. Go for the face-to-face or Skype
Being able to see the person you have chosen as a potential mentor is key. Invite them to coffee or to join you on a Skype call. (Stay tuned for a future article on Skype video calls).
Remember to keep it professional when speaking with these people. Don't allow yourself to become too informal before you have built a strong foundation. Also, be smart about your contact with them. It’s ok to be persistent over time if they've allowed you that window of opportunity, but avoid pressuring or annoying tactics because nobody likes a stalker! Be patient, realize they are busy, and respect their time. Stay tuned for more on this topic! For now, get started on Step 1...write down your Top 10.
We'd love to hear your best practices on finding and connecting to mentors through Social Media. Share them below.
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