How to Approach a Mentor


Odds are, you’re reading this article because you’re in somewhat of an “intrapreneurial jam” as I like to put it (and not the sweet kind). You’ve got your idea pretty much down pat, you’ve got your intrapreneurial motivation to get you going, but you’re missing one very important detail to fully embark on your intrapreneurial venture – a mentor. That one person who leads a larger organization (a “parent company”) that’s willing to provide you with the resources necessary to kick-start your project. Alright so I’ve outlined the problem, but don’t worry – I won’t leave you hanging! Your solution is only a few paragraphs away.


It’s time to get you a mentor. If you’re part of a family business, the mentor could be a relative. If you happen to be an engaged employee working for a large corporation, your mentor could very well be a director or CEO. Whatever the case, it’s important to have your project’s action plan in place and ready to be presented.

Tip 1: Make sure you’re approaching the right person

Who you choose as your mentor will be detrimental to your success as an intrapreneur. Don’t be shy to make yourself a list of all the qualities you’d like to have in a mentor. Be specific enough with the list (ie: common interests, common goals, affinities, personality traits etc..) to ensure the two of you will be a good fit. The point is to be realistic enough so that your mentor is the right fit – thus supporting your idea and providing you with the resources necessary to get it going, but not so unrealistic that it’ll be impossible to find someone who matches!


An important detail to keep in mind when considering whom to approach is that intrapreneurship will benefit both of you. Yes, the mentor will learn from you too! That’s why it’s important to know your goals and project like the back of your hand. You should be able to describe these goals and the action plan for them. When you’re speaking to your potential mentor, ensure they will learn about your goals and innovative ideas by being specific about them. The specifics will allow you and your mentor to establish mutual grounds to work on together and optimal clarity in goal alignment.


In short, being in tune with your passion, goals and ultimately what you want will draw you to the right person and vice-versa. My advice? Visualize yourself working as a team with this person. If you’re able to do that, it’s already a good sign. That being said, think about this not once – but twice, three, four times if you need to.

Tip 2 – Triple C: Clear, Concise and Confident

Whether the mentor you have in mind be a family member, a manager or the CEO of the parent organization, they all have one thing in common: they’re extremely busy. So, with this in mind, if you do have the opportunity to share your idea – it must be clearly, concisely and confidently stated. No fluff. No silly stuff. State your business objectives and don’t be shy to outline the benefits your project can have on the market (both within the parent company and in general). This type of confidence and clarity will ultimately increase your chance of success. On the other hand, unclear and inarticulate statements will cast doubts in your mentor’s mind as to your ability to put your priorities in order. Your credibility as an intrapreneur will be questioned your the potential mentor.


In addition, sharing your project as clearly as possible will ensure that your values and your mentor’s values are aligned. You leave no room for confusion. For example, you could develop an action plan that covers absolutely every aspect of your intrapreneurial project. Yes, everything. This includes exactly what you expect from your mentor (ie: how much time you require from your mentor, the exact resources you need, the budget you require etc.). The more prepared you are, the better. Don’t worry about sounding too demanding (although asking for 10 million dollars in the first week of your intrapreneurial project may be pushing the line, so please, do use your judgment). Your mentor will appreciate the fact that you’re confident enough to not only know what you want but also what you need on the path towards success. It’ll take far less time for the mentor to simply review your plan for them than to start guessing and creating a plan, themselves.


It’s important to note that with a clear and concise plan – you must also be prepared to adjust it according to any answers or advice you get from your mentor. It’s important to be confident in your plan but equally as important to remain open-minded.


Tip 3: Establish a Non-Tech Connection

Your idea needs to be presented in person, face-to-face and absolutely no technology should be used unless it’s a tool or visual that demonstrates your idea. That’s right – no phone calls, no emails, no texts, no social media messages. Granted, you may need to use technology to book some time with your mentor (i.e.: a calendar invite) but your intrapreneurial idea absolutely needs to be presented live. By presenting your project in person, you’re also increasing its value. It’s much harder for an in-person meeting to get deleted or ignored (hey…they left me on read!).


Try as much as possible to plan a meeting with your mentor in a specific location and within a designated time frame. This will create a safe space for you to share your idea and will allow for a mutual understanding that although this is your time – you won’t use it unwisely. In other words, you’ll have one hour: it’s go time.


The End Result

The way I see it, there are three possible outcomes to approaching a mentor: yes, no or maybe. Whether your mentor replies with an enthusiastic “yes!”, a cold “no.” or a very unsure “maybe” there are positive aspects in all three. While it’s obvious why the “yes” reply is positive (yoohoo, you’re officially an intrapreneur) and why there’s hope in the “maybe” reply – it’s not always clear that there’s also positive the “no” reply.


Well…let me clarify that for you.


The point is that you were brave enough to take a risk. You did something that had you not tried; you would have forever wondered the outcome. The best part? Your project doesn’t have to end there. It may be time to start thinking about how you can potentially improve your project. In this case, ask for some feedback and constructive criticism. You have nothing to lose and it will only benefit you in the long run.


While it’s important to look at your project and see how it can improve, it’s also important to consider the circumstances surrounding both your mentor and your meeting. Consider the first tip of this article – was this ultimately the best person to approach? Was the timing right? Will this person need some more convincing? Only you will know the answers to these questions. Whatever the case, don’t be discouraged, and remain confident.


Oh, and trust me on this last point: once you get the intrapreneurship bug, it’s nearly impossible to shrug off – so, do everything in your power to make it happen.


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