Mentor Mentacular: How to Connect With Your Future Mentors, Without E-Mailing Them|
Connecting: with Everything But Email
Have you ever had that “I MUST meet her” moment when you learn about a prominent businesswoman with a career that you’ve always dreamed of? Your next thought was probably about how to nab her email address. What if I challenged you to meet new mentors and keep up with established ones with everything but Outlook?
Before you have a Web 2.0 breakdown…Listen up. Armed with something interesting, different or new, you can find ways to connect with mentors that won’t get glazed over.
Trust that you’ll have fun with this too, because you’ll feel like it is less of a one-way street–shooting an email because you want something. By ditching the send button, you can push past those feelings and prove that you’re genuinely interested. It’s time to get creative, get their attention, and show that you really care.
Here’s How (and yes, I have had success with each of these-they work!)
Hopefully, you’ve never put a Google alert on a person or you’ve probably received the title of Stage Five Clinger. We’re about to change that. Many of your mentors have reached admirable heights in their career. Thus, they often act as spokespersons either for their companies, on behalf of organizations that they are passionate about or regarding activities they are interested in.
Setting a Google Alert for the imaginary Ms. Levo League, for example, will ensure that you receive an email update with relevant Google results of news stories mentioning Ms. Levo League. I have Google Alerts set for a few of my long-time mentors. That way, if I see something really interesting that they did with their organization or something new that they are involved in, I can give them a ring armed with a reason; showing that I genuinely care about what they are up to not just about what advice and opportunities I can get from them.
Yes, I am serious, and no, you have not time warped back to 1952-Write a personal note with a real pen and a 45-cent flag stamp. Warning: you may have to lick an envelope.
Cards and notes are much more likely to get the attention of a future mentor than any email would. Get her business address by calling the main line and requesting the mailing address if it isn’t searchable on Google. A handwritten note shows that you care enough to take the time to reach out and explain your interest in getting to know her. Provide your telephone or email in the letter that way she can quickly respond as you’ve already grasped her attention. Handwritten cards are becoming a lost art form that will set you apart from your peers. Whether it was written to connect with a mentor-to-be or to say thank you to a woman who treated you to coffee and a half hour of advice, you can’t go wrong with this one.
It is possible that many of you still pick up The New York Times occasionally, or maybe you’re like my alma mater’s business school and are strongly suggested to read The Wall Street Journal everyday. Regardless, this tip is a hybrid of the two previous creative suggestions. If you get a Google Alert that Ms. Levo League was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle, it would behoove you to go out and buy that day’s paper and read the full edition. Then, if you’re completely blown away with the feature on her that day…cut out the article and send her a note!! Don’t be surprised when you get a phone call within days with how touched your mentor was.
Pick up the Phone
Social-media blasphemy, eh? Hardly. However, phone calls are much harder to ignore than emails. When you have a mutual connection that is willing to introduce you, try asking for their phone number instead of their email. You can let the connection give them a heads up that you’ll be calling, but having a live phone chat or leaving a voicemail is sure to get their attention. It shows that you’re really interested in meeting them or catching up. Be sure that you’re ready to hear a live voice though, which means memorizing that elevator pitch which explains who you are and why you’re calling.
Mentors aren’t always easy to find, especially if you have few connections in your dream career (and you keep missing Office Hours). A great place to find mentors are within professional societies that exist for nearly every career field. And here’s a little secret they don’t tell you before you join-Most of them have directories with contact information available for and to all of their members. So, why don’t you find a few profession-specific memberships that you’d be interested in joining? Do your market research to identify which association would give you the most return on your investment.
Join, get the directory and then bust out your highlighter. Identify all the women who hold positions that you’d like to know more about or work at companies that you’d love to work for one day. Then call her up or write her a note. Showing that you both have the association or membership in common gives you credibility and more of a connection to your outreach. This is step-by-step how I found one of my long-time mentors who is also the highest-ranking woman at ESPN. She has had the most impact on my career to date, and I found her with a neon-yellow highlighter!
Inbox of Another Kind
If none of these ideas tickle your fancy, and you’re just tied to the inbox, try making it a message of another sort: Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn (I suppose you could make a Pinterest board for your mentor, but that could bring you back to the Stage Five Clinger status). Your email might get ignored whereas your message on LinkedIn could be noticed right away. Subscribe to your dream mentor’s public Facebook then send a message when you’re compelled by something she posts. Additionally, Twitter is a great way to keep up with things your mentor is saying or topics that she cares about. Use those tweets to bring up conversation in messages or phone calls.
Maxie McCoy has a Bachelor’s degree and a Masters from Lehigh in Journalism and Media, respectively. She is the co-writer of Less Work More Money and has experience hosting for Fox Sports Southwest. Follow her @maxiemccoy