A Virtual Mentor: Benefits of a One-Sided Relationship
My last installment, Tales of a Solopreneur: Building Your Brain Power, focused on learning and self-discovery and provided an action plan for building your brain power, so you can maintain your mental momentum year-round. This installment provides a framework for you to take the next step and acquire a virtual mentor who can help you get closer to your goals.
There are many responsibilities and tasks that solopreneurs starting out inevitably have to juggle alone, so it’s important to look for shortcuts to help you complete items faster and more efficiently and allow for greater rates of success. One way to do this is to engage in a virtual mentorship.
From my experience, if you surround yourself with people who have similar aspirations, an open mindset, and are ready to put in the work, you will be fueled by their motivation and momentum. Exercise boot camps, writing groups, and business masterminds are some examples of ways to turn big dreams into big goals that result in real-life achievements with the support of others in a mutually beneficial relationship. However, a one-sided virtual relationship with an expert in an area you want help in can be just as important to your long-term success even if you never meet them in real life.
You may be lucky enough to have real-life mentors that you can bounce ideas off of and gain real-time feedback on your thoughts and ideas and whether they think you’re headed in the right direction. However, the advice these mentors might provide you (despite how well-intentioned it may be) may not be relevant to where you’re headed with your start-up business, unless your mentors themselves have experience in your areas of need or the mental mindset to help you grow and fill in your own skill gaps.
Instead, consider setting up a new support team to help you up your game for what’s ahead. There is no shortage of advisors with content at varying price points in the virtual space to help you do this. Your support team will grow and evolve as you and your business grow – and as you continue to challenge yourself to operate further and further beyond your comfort zone. But you can start your support team now by acquiring your first virtual mentor.
Selecting Your Virtual Mentor
I would describe a successful virtual mentorship as a combination of you finding the right person or group to provide you with the right content at the right time in a format that works well for you. You can benefit from a virtual mentor at any point; and as your needs change, your mentors will too.
The key to starting is to figure out where you are today and what you will need in the short and long-term. Although there are times when learning about many topics can be helpful, this is not that time. Drilling down and learning as much as you can as quickly as possible in your area of choice from the mentor you’ve selected is the end game. Then once you’ve mastered, or at least become skilled in, what that mentor has to teach, you will be ready to graduate and select another mentor.
The following is an action plan for selecting a virtual mentor.
How would you define success with your virtual mentorship? For example, are you looking for: encouragement, motivation, or momentum; a new or improved skill-set; a fresh perspective; or a fast-track set-up or a way to push through a road-block in your business? Although you may have many growth opportunities to consider, the key is to identify what outcome would be your best result now, or what your biggest pain point is.
Discovering Virtual Mentors
Brainstorm a list of speakers, coaches, and/or authors, including niche experts, personal development gurus, and/or business builders, who might help you achieve success. Then research the following questions for each:
- Do they have a platform, business organization, or service offerings that might help you?
- Do they teach virtual classes; or do they publish online content via webinars, videos, or podcasts?
- Do they host virtual communities or Ask Me Anything sessions?
- Have you purchased content from them that you have yet to listen to? (I recommend keeping a list of all online content purchases for easy tracking.)
- Does their personality, brand, and teaching method resonate with you?
- Would they be a good role model for you?
Selecting Your Virtual Mentor
You are most likely excited about the possibilities you identified while brainstorming, so it’s important to narrow your list before you are tempted to go down the rabbit hole. Go with your gut and focus on the mentor options you believe will be true contenders for your attention and time. Your ultimate goal is to identify which mentors you would benefit the most from spending time with and then selecting who you want to learn from first.
I recommend setting a timer for 30 minutes to complete the Research and Cost & Benefits Analysis prompts below and then setting another 30 minutes timer to complete the remaining prompts.
RESEARCH: On a new piece of paper, answer the following questions for each of the mentors you think are contenders:
- Will you learn something new or how to do something different?
- How much will the mentor’s content cost you in the short-term and long-term? Is there free content you can use before purchasing their content?
- Will the learning be self-paced, or will there be a specific timeline to follow?
- Will this format work with your current circumstances, budget, and preferred learning style?
- Would you or your business benefit from this information immediately, or would the payoff be in the future (i.e., 6-12 months, 1-3 years, or over 3 years)?
COST & BENEFITS ANALYSIS: Highlight the names where you answered there would be either an immediate or a 6-12 months payoff, and use a separate sheet of paper to prepare a Cost & Benefit Analysis for this short-list of mentor options. Use the following headings and questions for each:
- ACHIEVEMENT: What will you achieve by learning from this mentor, and how will it benefit you or your business?
- SCHEDULE: How and when will you consume the content? (Already have too much on your plate? See Building Your Brain Power for suggestions on how to squeeze in learning without carving out extra time in your day.)
- COSTS: Does the cost fit within your current or future budget? If not, how will you fund it?
- OTHER OPTIONS: Is there another way to reach the same Achievement without this mentor; and if so, why would you choose this mentor over the other option?
FINAL RANKING: Compare the answers on your Cost & Benefits Analysis.
Rank your list starting with #1. Focus on which options will provide you the best result based on your current circumstances and list them in descending order.
SELECT & START: Pick your first virtual mentor. Start with #1 on your list unless there’s a timing or budgetary constraint that prevents this. If so, move on to #2 (and so on).
Get started. Sign up for your virtual mentor’s newsletter, subscribe to their YouTube channel or podcast, follow them on social media, buy their book, enroll in their program, join their community, etc. based on their applicable content.
I suggest sticking with one virtual mentor at a time until you know you can maximize that relationship before focusing on a second mentor, especially if it will require a more intense or longer time commitment to work through your mentor’s applicable content.
REVIEW & REFRESH: Add new mentor options to your list as you discover them.
Revisit your analysis at least annually to refresh and reprioritize. Also, note the following:
- What you’ve accomplished (happy dance!);
- Where you may have stalled, so you can decide whether to restart or not (honor your reality…); and
- What new areas of interest or mentor options you want to add based on your (new) current circumstances.
Next Up… Back to School
As summer ends, I’m looking forward to the Fall (which is my favorite season) and the start of a new school year, which for me includes happy memories of new school supplies and endless possibilities. The upcoming school year for me will include working on the final course requirements for my fiction book coaching certification course and then starting the non-fiction course.
I hope you’ve had an opportunity this summer to fit in some time for yourself and your loved ones and you’re looking forward to the possibilities ahead for the second half of the year.
Richelle Lyn is a compensation & benefits attorney and HR executive, who now spends her days focused on the writing life. Her favorite fiction reads involve leading ladies who push boundaries and conquer their fears while preferably digging for secrets, learning magic, and/or saving the World. She’s also a fan of non-fiction reads focused on personal growth and transformation. She loves her tea hot and her coffee iced. She calls South Florida home, but her favorite place to be is on a trip. You can check her out on Instagram and Twitter.