How to Win at Mentoring

This post was written by my friend Greg Cerveney ( for people involved in the Geekdom Fund Catalyst program. As he told me he wasn’t planning to publish it, I asked if I could as it’s a great set of best practices for people being mentored.

How to Win at Mentoring

by Greg Cerveney (

Mentors are Volunteers

  • Mentors give up their time to help you with your business.
  • They are busy individuals, many with businesses of their own to run.
  • Use their time wisely and with respect.

Come Prepared

  • Research mentors and understand their backgrounds.
  • Come prepared with asks, knowing what you want to get out to of your meetings.
  • Each mentor has a different background, understand the unique value they can provide.
  • Know where you are in your business, and what you need to move forward.

Your Goals

  • Get the mentor to do most of the talking. You are there for advice. If you are spending most of the time talking and selling your company, you are doing it wrong.
  • How to do this? Have a well crafted elevator speech, one that succinctly explains your business and starts the conversation. Do your research before hand and know what mentors skills you want to leverage (see above.)

Start a relationship

  • A long term relationship can benefit both parties.
  • Ask for permission to follow up via e-mail.
  • Choose wisely as neither mentor nor team have time to engage every one.

Things Not to Do

  • Come in unprepared: “I just wanted to tell you about my business and see what you say.”
  • Send unsolicited emails outside the catalyst.
  • Ask to follow up and then don’t.
  • If a mentor is willing to spend more time with you, do not dump every question on them.

No One Has All the Answers

  • Mentors have a lot of experience, but you should never follow advice blindly.
  • If you receive advice, and disagree, it is your business.
  • It you choose not to follow advice, share why you chose a different path.
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