How Shark Tank’s Daymond John Taught Me How To Find The Right MentorDaymond John
By: Omaid Homayun
(Forbes) – I was about to take a leap of faith into a new career and had two offers on the table. The first company would provide invaluable work experience and the other was offering more money than I had ever seen. To help me asses this life-changing decision I reached out to my mentor who has been my sounding board for career advice over the last seven years; he was my manager and I was fortunate to have him as one of my mentors. He never told me what to do, but he helped me evaluate my options so I could make an informed decision. In the end I opted for the work experience because that opportunity also met the other essential criteria of my job search.
I’ve surveyed many people and they often tell me they don’t have a mentor. Which raised the question, how do we consciously seek out the right mentor? To get expert advice I was compelled to reach out to Daymond John, who I was introduced to through a mutual friend. He’s best known for being an investor in the reality television series Shark Tank and he’s the fashion mogul behind FUBU, which generated up to $350 million per year.
While in the tank, entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to raise capital; however, Daymond feels compelled to help them for different reasons they may not even see or be aware of. He’s taken the dapper Moziah Bridges under his wing, who is the designer behind Mo’s Bows, as well as Mikaila Ulmer, the social entrepreneur behind BeeSweet Lemonade. He’s made strategic vendor introductions for Moziah, and when I asked Daymond if he had to have a conversation with him to keep him grounded (since he’s 12 years old and runs a successful $150,000 business) he explained, “He’s still under his parent’s tutelage, I haven’t had to have the emotional conversation because his mother does such an amazing job with parenting.”
Daymond’s mother was his first mentor, followed by her boyfriend and a man who operated the corner store nearby. Daymond’s first lesson is to take an affordable step towards finding a mentor. He advises it’s probably best to get obtainable people to speak to you. He explains, “People shouldn’t aim too high, not that they have high expectations, but just because someone’s perceived status is “higher” it doesn’t mean that they are at a higher place in life.” He says that you can learn so much from a successful individual who operates a corner store and you never know, they could often be a pillar in the community. Finding a mentor that will speak to you on a weekly basis holds a different and perhaps higher value compared to a mentor you can only access every few months.
I took Daymond’s advice and reached out to one of my favorite authors, Jon Acuff. He’s a New York Times bestselling author and his latest book, Do Over, is a career development book about reinventing your work and never getting stuck. His guidance was instrumental in my hustle of helping people to navigate their careers. A portion of my email to him looked something like this:
I was wondering if you’d be open for a 15 minute chat in the coming weeks? It would be great to get your guidance on the next steps in my career. I noticed you’re passionate about building schools overseas. I’m not sure if I can make the trip over to the next location, but I’m very resourceful and would love to help any way I can. I completely understand that you probably have a full plate. Either way, thanks for the consideration!
Jon was gracious enough to respond and we’re going to connect over the phone.
Approaching a potential mentor and asking them for guidance can be intimidating. To take the fear out of the exercise you can do the following:
A couple of Daymond’s recent mentors have been LL Cool J and Jay Abraham, who have provided him advice about business. Daymond explains, “You learn a lot about finances by failing.” Whether you’re looking for the next step in your career or have been thinking about launching a company, a great mentor is within reach. You just have to take notice.
Here are three books Daymond recommends to his mentees: