You Can Make a Good First Impression on a Mentor with These Tips

Keith Krach
January 4, 2017

When it comes to convincing an experienced, successful businessperson to serve as your mentor, the first impression you make is extremely important. Mentoring takes time and effort that a potential mentor may not be willing to give, if your first impression is unfavorable. To improve your chances of obtaining the mentor you want, consider the following tips for making a great first impression, from a mentor’s perspective.

Make an impression before the first meeting.

Your mentor should feel enthusiastic about the prospect of a partnership with you before your first meeting. Unless you’ve had the good fortune of falling naturally into a mentoring relationship with a professional whom you’ve gotten to know organically, your first impression begins with the way that you choose to initiate contact. Consider the personality and business style of the person you wish to be your mentor. In many cases, a well-worded email that allows you to introduce yourself and explain how you believe a mentoring relationship could benefit you both will suffice.

However, for prospective mentors who are highly busy, something a little less conventional may be the only way to earn their attention. Creativity is key in these instances, and may take the form of an informational video about yourself or even a gift basket. However you choose to make first contact with a potential mentor, make sure that you present yourself professionally through a medium that is well suited to the industry or professional persona of your would-be mentor.

Show up early.

Arriving early to business meetings is universally good advice, regardless of the dynamic between you and the person you’ve arranged to meet with. It’s especially important in a mentoring relationship because punctuality shows respect. You’ve likely asked this person to become your mentor because he or she has a career characterized by the kind of success you are hoping to create for yourself. He or she probably made time to meet with or speak to you in spite of having an incredibly busy schedule, and arriving early shows that you understand and appreciate that. Running late to a first meeting shows a lack of consideration and will damage a mentor’s perception of you before you’ve even had the opportunity to speak to him or her.

Come prepared.

While it’s important to arrive on time to your first meeting with a mentor, it’s equally important to arrive prepared. As a potential protégé, you should never expect a prospective mentor to carry the meeting. Do your research and demonstrate to the mentor that you took the time to get to know his or her professional background and areas of expertise. Prepare questions for your mentor that communicate your creativity and desire to learn.

While you should never expect a mentor to run your first meeting, it is also important to remember not to monopolize the conversation. Your first meeting should be a dialogue, not a one-sided conversation. Make sure to express interest in the mentor’s input to prove that you value his or her wisdom. Active listening is an important skill, and appearing engaged when your potential mentor is talking can help define you as a person who can be trusted, and with whom a mentor can build a rapport.

Put your confidence and passion on display.

Many new entrepreneurs who turn to mentoring have yet to build a strong reputation for success themselves. To prove your viability as a protégé without demonstrable experience, you need to show a potential mentor that you have drive, passion, and confidence at the first meeting. Passion is a central component of any successful entrepreneur’s work because it is often the only thing that keeps a company going when operations become difficult, revenue is not flowing, and employees feel discouraged. Confidence is a mandatory quality in a potential mentee—if you don’t believe in your talents or the company that you’re leading, your mentor is also going to have difficulty believing in you. The first time you meet with a potential mentor, make sure your attitude about your work reflects your professional aspirations. Show your mentor that you are committed to pushing your business forward. Maintain an open approach to feedback, but also remember to show a mentor that you trust your own knowledge and ability to make decisions.

Be goal-oriented.

Ultimately, your partnership with a mentor is a valuable tool that is meant to be used to the benefit of both parties. As the protégé, you gain valuable insight from the experiences of someone who has amassed great amounts of relevant knowledge. Mentors also often provide their mentees with excellent networking opportunities and can offer support in situations that few other people outside of business can relate to.

From the mentor’s perspective, the relationship is an opportunity to further develop leadership skills, bolster his or her reputation, and learn about new business trends from someone who has a modern perspective. To make a good impression, come to your first meeting with a mentor ready to focus on goals that will help both of you earn the benefits that mentoring can provide. Lay out your goals for the relationship, and clearly define what you believe you can offer a mentor. Showing up organized with a plan tells a potential mentor that you understand mentoring is a two-way street, and that you’re the kind of person who doesn’t expect to receive help for nothing.

Keith Krach

Keith Krach is Chairman of DocuSign, The Global Standard for Digital Transaction Management.