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How you know when a mentor's introduction may be worthless

Chris Seper

Finding the right mentor can be important, but a professional mentor may do more harm than good.

Geoff Clapp, a Rock Health advisor and panelist at this weekend’s Kauffman Foundation Life Science Ventures Summit, said there’s a “rise of the mentor class – everyone thinks they’re an advisor, everyone thinks they’re a mentor.”

“The most important thing you can do is stop talking to mentors and go build a product. If you can identify people who can help fill gaps that can help you do things – you need mentors who can do that. But a long-term mentorship where someone says, ‘Give me 2 percent of your company and I’ll be on your board for the next 12 years,’ that’s bologna.”

Here are some quick signs Clapp says you may have found a bad mentor:

  • The mentor is a storyteller who expects you to synthesize his experiences and apply them to your situation
  • They are serial introducers, known for reaching out to their network for most everyone
  • They don’t make you work for access to their network or skills
  • They require compensation for basic introductions
  • They never say, “I don’t think I can help you. I don’t think I can solve your problem.”

Mentors need to do one thing: listen and help drive you to decisions by asking questions.

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