(Originally appeared on Indie Hackers)
Here’s a few of my insights from the past few months of personally finding mentorship and listening to hours and hours of the Indie Hackers podcast 🙂
Interact with your idols
Normalize interacting with your idols online, and make it a habit. If you listened to a podcast or watched a great talk, get in the habit of finding them online and sending them a short thank you note. Most of the time you won’t get a response, but you might also be surprised. Many interviewees on the Indie Hackers podcast openly offer people to get in touch. Take them up on it.
All mentor relationships begin with a first response.
…and ask them specific questions
Cultivate a habit of thinking of specific, follow up questions after you listen to a podcast or watch a talk. Then include those in your thank you note.
Even though you aren’t likely to get a response, there’s still a lot of value in the process of thinking of a question to ask. It forces you to be a better listener, and think much more deeply about the content you just consumed.
Something I’ve been saying to myself:
If you don’t have a follow up question, you didn’t listen well enough.
No one wants to waste their time helping someone who’s not serious.
Demonstrate that you work hard, and are seriously committed to your project.
Implement their advice and follow up
This is the ultimate way of putting your money where your mouth is as a mentee. This is rare, and will stand out.
This isn’t required, but I do think it helps to have a bit of traction to help convince the potential mentor that your project is interesting enough for them to spend some time mentoring you.
Jason Cohen mentioned something like this during his Indie Hackers interview.
Recognize when it’s your responsibility
After a potential mentor has responded a few times, the ball is in your court. By responding, they have demonstrated a willingness to at least offer casual mentorship. At this point, it’s up to you to take advantage of the implied offer. Make it a point to stay in touch at a regular cadence. Regularly check in, offer status updates, and continue to ask Good Questions.
Find ways to give back
To help make the relationship more balanced, look for ways you can give back to your mentor, instead of only taking from them. Be creative! For example:
- Share learning resources you’ve been using. There’s a good chance your mentor is also interested in continued learning and would appreciate an interesting talk or podcast about a topic they care about.
- Find ways to help promote their projects or businesses.
If you want something, ask. You can publicly announce that you’re seeking mentorship, or try asking specific questions you have, then see if anyone that answers could be a good candidate for a mentor. Twitter and the Indie Hackers forum is a great place for this.