Having trouble finding (or keeping) a mentor? Chances are pretty good that you’re making one of these five mistakes.

1.) You don’t know where to start. Where do you find mentors? How do you approach a mentor? What can you expect from a mentoring relationship? What will you be required to do? Who you gonna call?

Luckily, this post answers those questions for you. You can cross this excuse off your list.

2.) You’re arrogant/insecure/afraid to ask for guidance. If you stubbornly insist that you don’t need professional guidance, you’re unlikely to benefit from a mentor’s assistance. If you allow your pride, fear, or shame to keep you from contacting someone for guidance, you’re only hurting yourself. Remember, everyone can benefit from a mentor. Everyone. This includes you, smartypants.

3.) You have a bad attitude.

Here’s a list of people mentors don’t want to deal with:

  • liars
  • whiners
  • assholes
  • ungrateful swine
  • posers
  • children
  • flakes
  • manics

If you’re projecting any of these qualities, any mentor worth the title won’t touch you with a twenty foot pole. Be positive, proactive, considerate, appreciative, and truthful. Keep your emotions and impulses in check.

4.) You’re lazy/clueless/an obvious waste of time.
“Hi! I just found your website and decided I want to own a salon! I need to know everything there is to know about salons and how to own one. Email me back with the information! Thanks!”
“I read one paragraph of on of your posts and I think I might be misclassified. I don’t have enough time to do my own research, but I somehow have time to compose a 20 page email detailing my life story and every minute detail of my situation, down to the color of shoes I was wearing when I discovered your website. Am I misclassified? Can you teach me how to keep from making this mistake in the future? I really need career help!”

You know what ain’t nobody got time for? ANY OF THAT. When you approach a mentor for assistance, do your research. Show that you’re serious and worth their time. If you’re unwilling to commit yourself to your own improvement, why should a mentor? Mentors want mentees who clearly recognize their skill and knowledge deficits and can set their goals effectively. Mentors want mentees who have demonstrated a degree of competence and a willingness to do the work necessary to help themselves.

5.) You just aren’t ready for the one you’re pursuing. This ties in with #4 a bit, but the difference here is that no amount of research will correct this problem. Mentors offer a hand up; they don’t often sculpt perfection from scratch. Seek mentors that will suit the stage of your career that will most benefit from their guidance. If you’re just starting school, you’re better off seeking out a senior student at that school or an instructor to help guide you through that period. That is not the time to seek out a thirty-year veteran who is running a chain of highly successful day spas. You just aren’t there yet, so don’t try to jump the gap or get ahead of your needs. Here’s my rough guide for experience-appropriate mentors:

If you are a… Then your ideal mentor is a…
New Student > Senior Student/Instructor
Senior Student > Salon Professional (3+ years experience)
Salon Professional > Salon Owner (5+ years experience) or Veteran Salon Professional (10+ years experience)
Salon Owner > Established Salon Owner (15+ years experience, 10+ as an owner)

SIDENOTE: Some established mentors do take on “the little people.” I’m one of them. As a matter of fact, I only take on students or professionals who are new to the industry–salon owners and experienced professionals have to pay for my time and advice. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to mentor you even if their experience level doesn’t seem relevant to your own at the time, but keep your expectations reasonable. I’m a rare exception to this rule. Most experienced mentors won’t take on mentees that have to be educated from the foundation up because they’re just too much work and they haven’t put in the time to demonstrate that they’re committed to the industry. Understandably, those mentors prefer to take on mentees that are on the appropriate level since they require a smaller time investment and have at least obtained the applicable licenses and training.

If you’ve identified the issue that pertains to your situation, take the necessary steps to correct it. There is nothing more rewarding than a supportive, successful mentor/mentee relationship. Mentors enjoy helping professionals succeed and mentees reap numerous professional benefits. Seek mentorship early and continue to seek mentors throughout your career as you advance.

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