In Part 1 on "How to Get a Mentor" I touched on:
a) What is a mentor?
b) Why we should have a mentor
c) Who makes a good mentor
In this article my focus is on:
a) How do we approach mentors?
b) What you can expect from your mentor
c) The importance of being prepared when you get on the phone or in a meeting with your mentor
Firstly, how should you approach a mentor?
At workshops, I suggest that actors, screenwriters, or producers write a dynamite, personalized mentor request letter. This letter would basically be three paragraphs. Paragraph one is the actual request… that you would like them to be your mentor and including the specific terms that you are requesting. For example, three ten-minute conversations (on the phone or in person) over a four-week period. The second paragraph is about why you've chosen them to be your mentor. And the final paragraph would be something about yourself. Let them know your chosen career path, tell them that you study in acting class, etc.
You can mail the letter or put it in an email. In the letter, you can mention that you will be calling in a couple of days to get their response. It always helps to create a little urgency with your request, while maintianing professional respect. In addition, I suggest that you read the letter to a few friends first to get their feedback.
What can you expect from your mentor?
Some of what you can look forward to receiving from your mentor is advice and suggestions on the names you have listed on your target list. You will also get advice on your goals, timeline and action plan, as well as suggestions on your overall strategic plan and career path. You can practice your pitch (of yourself or your projects) and get feedback from them and also request guidance on areas where you may be stuck.
And remember to find out about them! How did they get to where they are? What lessons, did they learn? You have the opportunity here to create a powerful, lasting relationship. And remember, you are asking for their guidance and advice. You're not asking them to watch your actor's reel or read your screenplay. If they ask you, that is fine, but never put them on the spot.
You are requesting their wisdom, not their rolodex!
When it comes time for your call or meeting, make sure you are prepared. Have your questions ready. Please don't have the mentor generate the conversation. If you need to, call some friends and brainstorm questions to ask. I recently interviewed Kevin E.West, a wonderful actor, speaker, and president and founder of Actors Network. He feels as strongly as I do about this whole notion of being prepared.
Here's what Kevin had to say..
"What do you really want from your mentor? Always know what you really want. Write it down. Make sure you have a list of questions. Write them down. Role play those questions with yourself and others before you get on the phone and understand that they are going to ask you questions. So you have to do research… you have to know your audience. You can't go into a conversation asking someone to help you out if you don't know a little bit about what they do… maybe where they're from… highlights of their career, even how their day goes.
Do as much research as you can to find out all the moving part of this person's life. "We don't tend to spend enough time doing research," says Kevin, "and we don't spend enough time being really clear about exactly what we want… in steps… what I want now, two months from now, six months from now, a year from now... from this person that I'm engaging as a mentor." Take Kevin's brilliant advice and be prepared.
Do your research about your mentor and have your questions ready!
In my final article, I'll address the topic of Mentor Etiquette… the important "do's and don'ts" to keep in mind when you are interacting with your mentor. In the meantime, I would suggest you continue to work on your list of possible mentors, begin work on your letters, and start preparing questions.
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