Finding a mentor in the start-up world.

Figure 1. example e-mail as a guideline. How would you write it? Note: the character is fictional.

When you start out on your new project or begin your research around your idea, guidance or feedback from a person who knows and is established in the field is invaluable.

Mentors can not only become a good friend of yours but could also be your best advisors, if you nurture your relationship well with them.

But how do you find a Mentor? And where are all these mentors?

You should keep in mind that anyone willing, could become a mentor. All they need is knowledge about what you want to learn about.

Also, put yourself in their shoes. In a reverse situation, would you not guide a willing student who is enthusiastic about the same subject as you are?

1.    Research

First do a little research around the topic which interests you. Be familiar with some basics. Write down a one page summary of your idea or area of interest including questions you have.

2.    Contact

Start approaching the relevant people. Search online for start-ups in the area or contact them after meeting them in person at a networking event or exhibition. Never be afraid to e-mail people, worst they won’t reply. (Try not to let that discourage you).

To find out about our recommended platforms for finding start-ups and people, click here.

3.    The first e-mail

Initially, when you start out, all you have it enthusiasm and a passion to learn. This is perfectly in line with the atmosphere of a start-up too. Don’t be afraid to show your character and introduce your interests in your letter.

Once the scene is set, and you said you read this and that, ask for their opinion and where they recommend you go forward from there.

See the image for an example e-mail.

4.    They replied!

That is fantastic, now the ball is in your hands, show them that you are committed and determined.

Drop them a quick e-mail to thank them for their reply and assure them that you will start reading the resources.

5.    The next 36 hours…

Read and research their recommendations straight away, make it your priority to get back to them in maximum 36 hours (or no later than two working days).

Note down any questions, further ideas you had etc, which were inspired by the recommended resources.

6.    Second e-mail

Write a new e-mail thanking them for all the advice and clarifying the points you didn’t quite understand.

7.    Nurture the relationship

You will now have a nice little conversation going, nurture it, let them know how you are doing, and if you happen to be in the same area you could ask them if they could show you around in their office…

8.    You have a mentor!

If you continue to nurture your relationship, you have gained a mentor. They will be vouching for you and help you where they can, just ask. One day you will also return this favour by taking on a young mentee.

Nicole Pretorius