Don Dodge, Google; Larry Chiang, Duck9 (founder of UnofficialAustin); Marcus Nelson, SalesForce; Dan Martell, Flowtown

Rough Draft 7 Street Smart Ways to Get a Mentor

by Larry Chiang on October 29, 2017

By Larry Chiang
Getting a mentor is at the heart of succeeding after college. Wrangling a mentor is a major career boosting event. Approaching mentorship is a side passion that has gotten me access at levels higher than I deserve. My wish is to boil down my curation of best mentorship and expose some counterintuitive dynamics into this listicle into “7 Street Smart Ways to Get a Mentor”. I welcome comments and feedback as my ability to place thoughts into written format is a challenge because 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. 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 we as mentees are going to have to 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 liked you to like his Twitter likes. And like the tweets that you would like to network with him about. So instead of setting a premeeting agenda via email, you signal an ability to search within a social media feed. You also signal your
– goals for a potential mentor
– signal your effort to search past writings your mentor has already said 
– signal future direction. Q
This answers How do you initially meet your mentor? and also leads to my next point…
-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
– I read what you previously wrote. 
– I took this very specific and very small action based on a change you stimulated me to take and make. 
– This is my documentation via smoke signals, a medium post or Facebook Instagram story. 
– This is me emailing you the documentation. 
– Now, request time over the telephone for a coffee. 
This answers the question of, “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 mentor
– cohort mentor
– junior mentor
– default mentor. 
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 when your mentor learns from you where you’re the junior. Default mentor is a person who is near you that mentors you by default: Think family, an assigned work associate or someone in close proximity that by default fills your head with their opinion(s). 
-4- Be the mentee to their mentor. 
You should guess at who your potential mentor’s mentor. They have risen to superstar mentor levels because of a mentor. Very often they thank and re-thank their mentor. This is an mmppi. 
Paul Graham (@paulg)
founders lose by making unforced errors.

I will attack “7 Street Smart Ways to Get a Mentor” by listing out the normal loser way and then the counterintuitive method. Afterwards, I’ll try to reveal the justification for why the street smart way works. 

Normal, loser way: “Toss a Hail Mary asking a potential mentor for a coffee.”
Larry Chiang (@LarryChiang)
*How to close (the “deal”) for a mentor, over a real world coffee* #ch5…

counterintuitive, street smart way: Ask for a telephone conversation. In the phone conversation, have a specific agenda that you email. 

Larry Chiang (@LarryChiang)
Trust. Be Public about how you thank a mentor. #ch5…

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. 

-7- Priming the mentor pump by getting a faux mentor. 

Yes, fake getting a mentor by thanking a mentor. This charlattan maneuver is socially engineered to become real by going through these steps. 

– Read a book. 
– Apply the book’s knowledge. 
– Thank the mentor. 
– Rethank the mentor. Because they did mentor you via their book or their CS183b Lec 5 video that’s free on YouTube. 

Your next mentor wants to see that you were a faithful and loyal mentee. 

Speaking of Peter Thiel…, here is his cofounder

Keith Rabois (@rabois)
@paulg @garrytan The challenge is that they are so counter-intuitive that if you just avoided the mistakes you might have an 80% prospect for success.

This leads me to point #3

-3- Be the mentee to a common mentor. 

Getting Tom Brady to mentor you about being a QB is going to be hard. Getting #TomHouse to mentor you is going to be hard too. 

Larry Chiang (@LarryChiang)
Top 20. It’s tough to crack. Let’s roll the dice and keep on being #TomHouse mentees

Larry Chiang (@LarryChiang)
Me & Mark share the same mentor! DJ in Geoffrey Moore, Eric Ries, S Blank & @tjkosnik = “Cross the Chasm, FromTheRight” #ctcFTR

-4- A great mentee brings deal flow to their mentor. 
Larry Chiang (@LarryChiang)
Wanna mentor? 
1/See a tweet. (Like it
2/Do that tweet
3/Tweet. Yo @jowyang/@Britopian/@bjfogg/#larryCHIANG, I did that thing u tweet’d #ch5

Download the 

xCEO of Duck9, Larry (@6502838008)
I can tell in 2-seconds whether someone under 25 is getting coached cc @LarryChiang‘s mentor’s #ch5 [#WTDTYAHBS chapter on mentorship]…


Larry Chiang (@LarryChiang)
Counter intuitive = Your mentor will learn from you too (maybe more bc mentors learn fast). See @KDTrey5 in the HBO doc film from 2012. #ch5


Paul Graham (@paulg)
Startups lose by making unforced errors.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: