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About This Episode
There’s an old poem that says, “No man is an island.”
Nobody does it alone. Nobody gets to the place in their career where they want to be on their own, without others helping them get there. Ask anybody at the top of their field how they got there, and they’ll talk about the people that helped them get there.
The people who believed in them. The people who gave them chances. The people that helped them see something in themselves that they couldn’t see on their own.
Roderick Jefferson, CEO of Roderick Jefferson & Associates, was on the Sales Engagement podcast lately talking about mentors and sponsors. What are they? Why do you need them? And what is the difference?
Finding a Mentor vs. Finding a Sponsor
The good news is, you can pick out a mentor. They’re not all that hard to find. You simply find out who the top performers are. Who is doing what you want to do? Who has made something of themselves?
Then you approach them, asking for an informational interview. Not a “pick your brain” session. But an informational interview. You are approaching them and saying, “I want to learn how to do what you do so that I can do it too and maybe someday be as successful as you are.”
Your purpose is to get to know that specific executive in order that you might emulate them.
Now for the bad news.
You can’t pick a sponsor. They pick you. And they will likely pick you out for a few reasons, or based on a few criteria:
- They see some promise in your potential.
- They see in you themselves at a point in their career journey.
- They see something unique in you that they don’t see in anybody else.
Preparing For the Informational Interview
Now that you’ve landed the informational interview, how do you prepare for it? Far too many people use the informational interview as a way to ask for a job, and mentors can see right through that.
How do you ensure that your informational interview is as authentic as it can be?
First of all, think of the difference between a conversation and a presentation. Which one are you more likely to respond to? Which are you more likely to fall asleep during?
If you approach the interview as a presentation, as a chance to say, “Here’s what I can do and why I’m great and why you should hire me,” you’ve already lost your audience. They sit through enough presentations through their days.
But when you approach the informational interview as a conversation, it will organically work it’s way out and you’ll quickly learn whether or not there’s a connection there. If there’s a connection, a mentorship relationship may be next. If there’s not a connection, shake the dust off your feet and move on.
Secondly, set an agenda up front.
No matter what. No matter how small the meeting is, no matter informal the meeting may seem, set an agenda up front.
Some executives won’t even accept meeting invites without agendas clearly defined up front. It’s a waste of their time.
Will You Be My Mentor?
When searching for a mentor, there’s going to be a little bit of ego that is going to need to be conquered. It’s like being in middle school, and the person you’re meeting with is the cool kid in the lunchroom and you desperately want to sit with them.
Why? Because you want to be them. You want to learn from them and be a part of their team.
But what does the mentor get out of it? We all know what we get out of having a mentor, but what does the mentor actually get out of it? Why would they want to spend their time? They’re busy enough right?
Roderick talked about the three rules that he uses in his mentor/mentee relationships:
- If we agree to this time, we have to keep this time, and if not we move it, but I won’t’ move it at the last minute. Moving the meeting at the last minute shows you don’t value my time.
- If you ever set a meeting and don’t set an agenda, we don’t have a meeting.
- Everything that I share with you, you are now required to move that on and share that with others.
So what do the mentors get out of it? More followers? Absolutely not. According to Roderick, leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.
Sponsors pick you. You don’t pick sponsors. Sometimes it’s based on performance. And sometimes it’s just fortuitous introductions.
It’s going to your mentor and saying, “I know you’ve got a connection with so-and-so, and I’m not saying I’m ready, but my ultimate goal is to get where they are. Can you help me identify ways to get to that place?”
Sponsorship is more about personal connection than anything else. It’s about working with your mentor to make yourself more attractive to a sponsor.
Embrace the “No”
There will be times that your mentor, on your road to getting a sponsor, is going to have to be brutally honest with you. They’re going to have to tell you that you’re not ready. That you’re not where you need to be.
They’re going to say, “I’m not going to let you ruin your brand by jumping into something that you’re not ready for. It will make you look bad. ANd it will make me look bad. And neither of us needs that.”
That no can be tough, but ultimately it is incredibly important.
A mentor will give you tough love, but that tough love is shaping you into the kind of person that a sponsor will look at and decide is worth the investment.
You need a champion on your side to get to the next level because nobody wins alone.
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