Why Give a Damn:

We all know (or should know) that having a support network around you makes a world of difference. So get yourself a mentor and make the relationship work.


The author of this post, Pascal Finette, is a veteran mentor. He is the Founder of Mentor for Good, and has served as a mentor for the Unreasonable Institute, Unreasonable at Sea, TechStars, Seedcamp, and Mozilla’s WebFWD. He’s also the Founder of the GyShiDo Movement.

Intuitively we all know that having a good support network of smart people around us will make us stronger, help us make the right decisions, allow us to see things from a different perspective, and pull us through those inevitable dark moments of being an entrepreneur. Leaders often don’t tend to talk about their respective mentors – but you can almost guarantee that any well-known (and less well-known) successful leader has a roster of other people they trust and rely on. When they do talk about their mentors, it’s often with a voice filled with admiration, passion, and love.

A good mentor will become your mirror. The person you can be vulnerable with, who holds you up, cheers you on, tells you off when you do something stupid, and generally makes you a better person. And often they are friends for life.

Interestingly a lot of young leaders don’t have a mentor. It is not due to lack of mentors, or a mentor’s unwillingness to work with people who haven’t cut their teeth in the world of business and entrepreneurship yet. It is because young entrepreneurs don’t ask. Often they think they either know the answer (they generally don’t), don’t want to be perceived as weak and vunerable (a misconception of leadership), or don’t have the guts to ask. Don’t be that kind of leader. You owe it to your idea, your employees, your customers.

How do you get the right mentor? First – make a list. Actually – make multiple lists. Make a list with all the areas you feel you need to develop to be a better leader, business person, or simply a better human being. Make another list with people you admire and who you would love to have as a mentor – they can be highly aspirational (think Richard Branson) or the guy who runs the local bike shop. Lastly make a list with an initial set of questions you would want to discuss with your mentor.

Put your lists together and figure out who in your extended network might either be a fit or might know someone who could be a fit. Then ask. Send an email. Call. You will be surprised how many people are delighted to help. Put yourself in their shoes – someone in their network asks them to be a mentor, it doesn’t get any more flattering!

Once you have your mentor(s) identified and have scheduled your first meeting make sure you are prepared. Figure out what you want to get out of the relationship, what you are prepared to give back (e.g. you can offer a fresh perspective for a seasoned executive from the trenches of a startup) and how you would like to structure your relationship (e.g. a meeting every month over coffee where you come prepared with a list of topics you want to tackle). Create an alliance with your mentor – be clear about the structure and agree on it.

Now the most important piece of advice – it is up to YOU to make this work. Time and time again I see mentorship relationships go nowhere as the mentee simply didn’t follow up, provide feedback, and schedule meetings.

An Unreasonable Challenge:

Find a mentor. Get your relationship off the ground and put effort and energy into making it work. You won’t regret it.

About the author

Pascal Finette

Pascal Finette

Pascal is the Managing Director of Singularity University's Startup Lab. He is also an entrepreneur, coach, and speaker who has worked in Internet powerhouses, such as eBay, Mozilla, and Google, and Venture Capital—starting both a VC firm and accelerator program.

  • WolfgramKA06

    I loved this article because I can relate to it. I finally got a mentor after two in a half years of college. I am so excited about my new willingness to learn from someone and to gain potential experience in my future career. What I did not fully understand about this article is that, although mentors are everywhere, some people (especially students) do not know where or how to go about finding the right mentor that is suitable for them. I am lucky to have found mine in my organization on campus, but some may find it difficult. Some are scared to ask, potentially assuming that the mentor may be too busy or unwilling to help. Either way, I find myself lucky to get the opportunity to meet with a mentor, and possibly find other ones later on.

  • Alivia Holman

    My coaches are the best fit as my mentors because they help
    and motivate me to do my best. When I was
    reading the article you mentioned a list of people who you admired. It opened my eyes that the people I admire
    the most have always been there for me; I just did not ask for help. My coaches
    fit my list because they believe in me.
    They are determined to see me succeed.
    I know that they won’t put me down or judge me and that is just what I
    am looking for and need in a mentor. My question for you is if you needed a
    mentor when you were in college would you choose a relative?

  • Caitlin Snyder

    Thank you for this article! After reading it, it made me think about all the mentors in my life. All my coaches and teachers are great mentors, but my mom takes the cake. She is a role model in every aspect! I’m lucky to have many people to admire in my life. My question for you is, which would you prefer as a mentor, a relative or a nonrelative? Once again, thank you for this article!

  • Connor Driscoll

    Thank you for posting this article! This information is useful to everyone but especially me. I think that too often I try to do things on my own when asking someone that could give good advice would likely be beneficial. For example, when working on an essay that I feel I am doing very well with, I could probably do even better by asking my sister (an excellent writer) for feedback. Pascal, who are your mentors and what are the characteristics you admire about them?

  • Jessica Mendoza

    Love this article! This information is very useful. After reading this, it made me think about who all the mentors are in my life and if I really use them. I have some great mentors in my life from my family, friends, and coaches, but reading this article really made me realize that I don’t use them like I should. I have always considered myself an independent person. I think that doing/dealing things by my self or more sufficient and easy. I need to realize that I have good mentors in my life that are their for me, I just need to put them to good use. Thank you for writing this article! It really made me realize that I should stop trying to do everything by myself.

  • pinsolera

    Thank you for posting this article Pascal. This was a great article because it really outlines what young entrepreneurs and people trying be leaders to become great. I do believe that young people need a mentor because he/she gives us guidance to do the right thing to be great leaders. That is so vital to being a leader that without the proper mentor, someone may not be as great a leader as they could be.

  • treehugger90

    Great article! I agree everyone needs a mentor! For myself, I see my boss being a mentor because he owns a small business and I soon want to own a small business. I haven’t asked him to be one, but I do ask him a lot of questions and that helps.

  • Tammy Hartmann

    “We all know (or should know) that having a support network around you makes a world a of difference. So get yourself a mentor and make the relationship work” —
    very well said. I forgot which article, but there was one you wrote about mentors that I read and followed for a few months. I have been surprised to see how things have progressed so well, compared to what I did in the past. I think this is because of a very simple reason I did not have the guts or confidence back then, but now I do. I need to remind myself of your advice: follow up after the first few meetings, and prepare well.

    Pascal, thank you for your advice.

  • Angela Hoch

    Everyone most definitely needs a mentor! My boss is also my mentor for similar reasons. It’s important to have someone in your life that can help guide you and point you in the right direction. Sometimes we feel that we can handle it, and do things on our own when in reality, a little advice would help out a lot. For people who have been in the “real world” longer than we have, will most likely have a few tips and tricks to share 🙂

  • Samantha

    Although many of my professors in college and law school were interesting and inspiring, I did not ever speak to them outside of the occasional office hour chat. For most of my life, I had a very clear career path set out, and finding a mentor to guide me down it was sort of like turning on a GPS device when I already knew how to get from point A to point B. However, after Lehman Brothers crashed in 2008 and the economy tanked,and I realized around that point that my law firm was going to defer me for 6 months, many of peers and I realized that maybe the whole “mentor” thing wasn’t such a crazy concept. For one, finding someone who could pivot, who had life experience, and who was able to offer perspective on what to do when your career path turned out to be not the straight line you thought it was going to be, was going to be, it turns out, invaluable. Furthermore, your parents, those people who always seemed to offer loving and caring advice up to 2009, it turned out, were only so loving and caring when your career path was on the straight and narrow path you used to be on–mentors could offer practical and straightforward advice, be empathetic, and not make you feel like complete failures.

    Although it took a lot of adjustment for me to feel comfortable reaching out to strangers and asking them for help, and even more adjustment to know what kinds of questions to ask someone so I felt that I was making the best use of their time and mine, I feel as though, now especially, when the economy will never again be one in which kids graduate from college, get a job, and move into a career, a mentor will almost be a necessary part of any educational relationship in order to determine what career path to take and an integral way to form networking relationships. Whereas at one point, college kids could get things done solely by sending out applications, references, and waiting for lighting to strike, those days are over, and one of the manifestations of that is finding someone to help guide you along the way.

  • Katy Getsie

    This article is a good reminder for me. i spent a lot of time working on a fellowship without a mentor, and in looking back on the experience, I can see how useful it would be to have had a knowledgeable person to bounce ideas off of throughout the project. Its a way of working smarter not harder, learning from others experiences, means that you can learn and take action in a more streamlined way.

  • priperotti

    This article was very beneficial to me. I identified myself as being one of the people who do not have the gut to ask for a mentor. The tips on how to get a mentor are really good. I like the idea of making lists of inspirational things and certainly being prepared when meeting a possible mentor is always necessary. After reading this article, I am motivated to go out and find myself a mentor.

  • Katie Lentz

    It’s interesting how this article states to seek out a mentor–you get out what you put in. I’ve been lucky in that I didn’t have to go looking for my current mentor. However, I know that once I exit undergraduate life, many things will change. Finding a mentor will be one of them.

  • Kay

    I agree with this idea! I have a mentor who was my high school teacher. He helped me a lot when I decided to study in the US. I’ve still asked him what should I do when I worry about something about school or life in the US.

  • Lucila Gambino

    By reading this article it made me step back and appreciate all the people in my life who have been my mentors and deeply cared for my happiness, challenging my mentalities and habits and encouraging me. I also was able to notice who I have been a mentor for and that helped me recognize my strengths and how I am able to help others. Having that contrast values everyone involved.

  • alemoin1

    I think this is great advice. I do see this is as a problem that affects the younger people of our generation. Everyone likes to think they know what they are doing or can figure it out, but don’t want to swallow pride and ask for help. As you said, it just takes a simple question. Personally, I would like to think I have done this is a wide variety of people in just always ask advice from someone who has already been there before you. They don’t necessarily have to be someone to work with you over a long period of time, just someone you trust who can be there when you need guidance or assistance.

  • Jessica White

    Interesting that the new entrepreneurs tend not to have mentors. I would have expected that it’s difficult to ask for help. When you’re new in a field you want to look confident and show that you know what you are doing. I can imagine that asking for help may look, in their minds, to be a weakness. The reality of it is, that asking for help is actually a strength. It is important to know that you don’t know everything and asking for help may be a great asset to your future.

  • Travis Mattice

    I like that you mentioned the part about asking for help looking like a weakness. Your reasoning could not be more spot on. Does asking for help look like a weakness sometimes, Maybe. But I think it shows a better side. The fact that you are will to ask questions or in a way admit that you are wrong. Well put Jess.

  • Kaylie Mae Kuhnke

    i enjoyed this article because i feel lost a lot and need help from someone but do feel embarrassed to ask someone for help. i feel like if i ask for help im weak and i don’t want to seem weak to people. i honestly don’t know if i want to be in the major im in and if it is the right one for me. this article just makes me realize i do need someone to talk to about my future.

  • HelpHealth002

    Thanks for writing this article Pascal. I think everybody should read this because it’s important for each and every one of us to have a mentor in our lives. I like the point you made about how mentors should be our mirrors. I agree with this because I think you need to be able to be completely honest with your mentor and let your true feelings out. The only way they are going to be able to fully guide you is if they know the real you and that includes letting your guard down. Did you have a mentor growing up?

  • Glassborow

    Thank you for writing this article, I think mentors are great, not only can you gain a great friend, they can help you with your work like, giving feedback on ideas, helping you think of new ones and helping you build them into successful businesses. There’s definitely nothing to feel weak about if you feel like you need a hand, if anything it makes you a stronger more confident person. Have you ever had a mentor?

  • Charles Fischer

    The follow up is important, I have had junior NCO’s who would ask me to help them and then never follow up, at time I reached out and tapped them to say do you need a hand or an ear to listen? From there it developed and matured if they were willing to ask the important and right questions.

  • Eric H

    Thanks for the post. A lot of young leaders do not want to rely on anyone else because they think they have all the answers. Mentors are always positive. It can’t hurt to have a mentor. They can improve your weaknesses and give you insight on things you aren’t the best at or haven’t realized things that you need to do better. People are so stubborn, but if they had mentors, their ideas and lives will become a lot more smooth.

  • Dannielle Wagner

    I think having a mentor is a great idea. Having an experienced point of view would most definitely be helpful. A good mentor could have tons of tips and insight on how to handle a business…that you otherwise might not have discovered.!

  • Dannielle Wagner

    I can relate to feeling lost…I switched my major my sophmore year and I felt like I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. My advisors through the college havent been much help and I would love to find someone that has experience in the field that I plan on going into…but like you I am often scared to ask.

  • Kaylie Mae Kuhnke

    exactly like i feel they are busy with other people and dont have time for my questions and doubts about what im doing with my career.

  • hmcavey

    This is so true! Being open to other minds that can broaden your own mindset is such a valuable tool. I have had mentors in the past to help me see beyond my current situation or look at alternative paths that I would’ve never seen.

  • Cossioj14

    Having mentors is an absolute must. And i think mentors is sometimes a thought of “we have to listen to them”. I think a mentor it someone you bounce your ideas off of and such. SO it is important to have more than one to do so.

  • emeloul

    I wouldn’t be anywhere without my mentors! I think this is a great post that might seem so simple but when put into perspective, we all might not be doing it right or even doing at all. I also like the idea of having more than one as many of us are interested in a few different industries so having a mentor for each that really understands each of their own industries will translate well to the student in terms of knowledge and opportunity.

  • DuchAM21

    I never really considered having a mentor over business. I have always thought of my close friends and family as the ones who are my mentors when I need their advice. When I start working as a business person, I will definitely contact possible mentors. Another great thing about having a mentor is that it is a networking connection, especially in the field of sales.

  • Tawni Meyer

    I think having a mentor can be a key to success. You have a person who is well versed in the way you want to go, they have failed in numerous ways, they learned things the hard way. I have a teacher at school I admire and think of them as a mentor. I also have a friend who has built up a business from scratch and has learned a lot. While I may not go into the path he did, does not mean I cannot learn much from him.

  • Ashley Nicole Rietbrock

    Thank you Pascal for sharing this article with us I found it very informational and help. I find myself having a couple of mentor in life and think everybody should have atleast the one mentor that could go to them for anything in life. I think one should have a mentor in your personal life and then one for at work becuase you need that someone there they you could go to if you need help. I have a couple of mentor that I know what I can go to about anything and I know they would be there for me. I really look up to them and hope one day I could be like them. Thank you again for sharing this article with us.

  • alexlavine

    I have always been pretty good about seeking out information and asking questions. I have developed a good relationship with a lot of my coaching colleagues. They are all older than I am and have experienced most everything. By having these close relationships with these people in the same profession I have been able to ask questions and get great feedback. This same feedback is something that may not been available to the people that I now rely on. Having mentors in our life is defiantly a benefit, but its up to us to seek out the information of those who can help us.

  • milleram97

    I never really realized the importance of a mentor before. It’s weird to think that big leaders have one, but it’s something you see all the time but just don’t realize. We all need that support system to help us along when things are easy and tough.
    They can be a great resource for questions, advice and simple conversation. As people, we are in desperate need for others for these core things, and it impacts all areas of health as well.
    Healthy people are happy people, and there’s no way you can get there on your own.

  • Katelyn Vaughn

    I think having a mentor is very beneficial, especially once I graduate college. For example, my school adviser is someone who I look up to and go to for mentoring. I talk to her about my future and ask her questions that will help me excel in my personal goals. My adviser is a social work educator at UW-Whitewater and has taught me a lot about the social work field. Without going to her for advice and guidance, it is possible that I would be very confused and lost.

  • AndreaOlsen22

    I never really thought about how significant having a mentor could be. I know a lot of leaders think they know it all and have the best ideas and don’t need one, but why would another opinion be so bad? If you disagree, you can turn the idea down. Leaders need to remember that they are still the leader and mentors are there for guidance. Mentors can make your process run much smoother and help you uncover things you may have forgotten about or haven’t even thought of. Sometimes going into something with someone by your side is a comforting feeling, which gives the leaders the confidence they need.

  • Shae Moyano

    very interesting article, and I have to say that mentors are very beneficial and if we have the opportunity to get some tips or guidance from a couple then we should, it doesn’t hurt to have other opinions or points of views, sometimes this can make your idea or whatever is that you are doing much better, having someone there helping you every step of the way could become a wonderful thing in the long run.

  • Shae Moyano

    That is a very nice example, never thought about my advisor as a mentor but after reading your post I can see it now, with their experience and knowledge on my field of study they do help us and give us guidance to succeed in school and sometimes life.

  • Thanks for this note @AndreaOlsen22:disqus ! All of us here at Unreasonable believe in the incredible power of mentorship – check out some of the posts we have on mentors & why it’s so important here. http://unreasonable.is/category/tags/mentorship/

    Thanks again for your comment!

  • Chelsea Haffele

    I find my school advisor to be very helpful as well. It’s nice to have someone who can guide you and give good advise.

  • Michellelele123

    I think having a mentor is very important not just for entrepreneurs but for everyone. Children growing up, students trying to find their path, adults entering the workforce,… Having someone believe in you and be a positive light that wants to move you forward and to a positive place and be by your side to get you there is amazing and beneficial.

  • Jessica Peardon

    I went to an advisory board meeting at my school and this is the same advice they gave me. They said that you need a mentor who will keep you in check and give you advice. You don’t want to be bothering your boss all the time with questions. But, you won’t know everything. That’s why you ask your mentor.

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  • SkylerZahner

    Having a mentor can honestly be a life savor because its like having an extra “mom” you can run to for just about anything. A mentor teaches you the ropes and is there specifically to answer any questions you may have which should definitely be taken full advantage of. A mentor can technically be considered many things for example a roommate can be a mentor of some sort if they are consistently working with you. At the same time I believe you can be a mentor right back to your roommate with something else it all depends on how you look at things and the situation at hand.

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  • Erin

    Yes a mentor is very important for people who are trying to find their way. A mentor can influence people at all different levels of their lives no matter what stages they are in life. Having that positive person you can go to for advice and just keep you on track with your goals can have a major impact on your success.

  • Michellelele123

    My first job at 16 was in a retirement home and some of the senior citizens there definitely became my mentors, helping me and teaching me about the real world and I learned from their stories and experiences. I’m thankful to have had many mentors, of many ages and backgrounds to help me through the years. What about yourself?

  • Michael Sardina

    Everyone needs a mentor and not just at an early age. They say we never stop learning, so therefore I believe there is always someone out there from whom we can learn from. On the other side of the coin, being a mentor can be a wonderful experience. Giving back is very rewarding.

  • Michellelele123

    I agree with you we always continue to learn and grow and we continue to learn from everyone around us at all ages. Not only have in bad great mentors, but I know that I’ve been that person for others which is an amazing feeling!

  • MattDennert

    I think people should have more than one mentor because that way if one of your mentors doesn’t know something about a situation you can go to one of your other mentors and talk to them about it and see what they have to say.

  • milkienr18

    I think finding mentors are so important. Like the article says they can help you see things in a different way. I also think it is important to find people out side of your close friends and family because that will really give you an outside perspective and help you or your company grow the most. I think mentors can really have a big impact on your life and can help guide you in the right direction.

  • ryanstorto

    As I think about the future, I know I will be looking for a mentor to help me in the start of my career. Mentors can be so important to helping us see things that we may have never thought of and teach us more than we could have imagined. But I’ve never thought of how to select who I would want to have as a mentor or what to look for in one before reading this article. Their impact can be so powerful to us. But I realize that we can’t just sit back and wait for someone to come up to us and ask to be out mentor. It’s in our hands to work hard in finding someone we are comfortable with and feel that we can learn from. Who knows, if we have the right mentor, we could be the ones doing the mentoring down the road.

  • Julia

    Good for you, I think that’s a great idea. Having a mentor when you first start a career is always a good way to make sure you’re on the right track. Even though Americans tend to think we know everything, we always need guidance. We need someone to lead us and teach us more than what we know consistently. This is where networking can come into play. Networking is great because it helps you develop a support system that also gives you valuable resources to be successful in your profession.

  • Nathan Tessar

    I think a mentor is one of the best things for you when your finding your job as a college student. When, I started my internship, my boss was my mentor and I learned so much from just watching and listen to her do her job the way its suppose to be done. I feel like your mentor doesn’t need to be a parent but someone that you can look up to in the future. Finding that person can be hard at times but once you do, you will realize that success is right around the corner.

  • dwyerms07

    Great read. Having mentor is one of the best things a person could have in their life. From reading this article it gave me many step and guide lines to follow and find a great mentor.

  • dwyerms07

    I agree with you that finding mentors are very important to a person. I also believe that it is important to have a mentor that is outside of your friend and family group.

  • dwyerms07

    i would have to disagree with you on having more than one mentor. Having more than one mentor can get confusing by each mentor giving oposing advise.

  • Ashleigh Hartlaub

    I also agree having a mentor is key. I have one and she is honestly the best. It also makes me wondering if I will ever be as good of a mentor as the one I have and I hope that I can be.

  • Ashleigh Hartlaub

    Having different versions of a mentor is great. Like your roommate example, that is a kind of mentor when it comes to helping you out with at home stuff. Thinking of anyone basically could be a mentor.

  • Ashleigh Hartlaub

    Its good to have a mentor, but what happens when you bug your mentor all the time? Probably having two mentors would probably be best so you can get two different perspectives or advice about a situation.

  • Will Ettl

    A mentor is the best thing anyone can have. You can learn so much from having one. My old coach is my mentor and he is the best thing that has happened to me, He even got me a job and even though we are rival coaches now we help each other out and I continue to learn so much from him as time passes.

  • barema28

    I agree! You can learn so much from a mentor. They can advise you in what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. I have a similar situation where my mentor was also one of my coaches who I now coach against. I learned a lot from him so now using it against him is so fun!

  • McKenzie Foster

    I totally agree with you! I have so many mentors in my life that I am thankful for! My gymnastics coaches are a couple of my mentors and they help me so much in life! They guide me in the right direction and help me get my education on the right path. They teach me a lot of lessons that I catch on and now I could pass down if I ever was a mentor for someone!

  • kgonyo

    One thing I found very helpful about this article was advice on where to begin the mentor search. As college students, we’ve been told over and over again to get mentors, but many students shy away when it comes to finding one. Not being afraid to ask those who inspire us is the key to starting this unique relationship.

  • Ryan Dow

    Can a tutor be a mentor? Because I feel like they can be from what they’re job title is. Finding an mentor in college is key for a good college career.

  • Tyler Hebert

    I think having a mentor in what you love is so important. No one is perfect. Your mentor will teach you so much and you will teach so much to your mentor. In this article, Finette talks about making lists of all the areas you need help in. I think that is a very smart thing to do because finding a mentor is so much more helpful than trying to do it yourself. People are sometimes to afraid to ask for help, but if they don’t know what is going on they need to be honest and ask for help.

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  • Azra Samiee

    Asking for help can be extremely intimidating but if an individual looks at the relationship as mutually beneficial it will be a truly invaluable relationship. There is nothing better than learning from another person’s experience. I like that the article lays out how to find a “mentor” that aligns with a persons own goals, vision and expectations by making a list and than identifying people that may fall into these categories.