Who Are You Modeling?
There was a point last year that I was desperately looking for a mentor. I was posting it on social media, asking friends, and trying to manifest it. I knew what I wanted to be doing career wise, but I just couldn’t manage to get a grasp on how to get there. I felt like I tried every which way, but I still wasn’t seeing the results I desired. I knew there was more to learn, so my approach was to seek out someone who had already been through it. Someone similar to me. So I did. But, I knew I had to tread carefully. Relationships are about a win, win. There has to be something in it for the both of you. I figured I should find a way to be of value to my mentor in the same aptitude that they were of value to me, so I began to write a list of all the abilities and assistance I could offer them. Luckily, it worked. I was able to get the advice and guidance I had been looking for without making my mentor feel used. However, I have seen time and time again when coattail riding rubs the wrong way and rips a hole in something valuable! Here are a few ways that I’ve learned along the way for taking a ride without losing your solo stride.
Establish What You Need (Without Being Needy)
The purpose of riding a coattail or modeling yourself after someone you admire is to get yourself further. But no one respectable ever got further by digging their claws into someone’s back to climb to the top. When seeking some sort of improvement or forward movement, start by writing a list of what you really want. Do you need a phone call every week to keep you accountable? How about a list of emails for networking purposes? Maybe you need some structure on how to make your next business move. Or maybe you like the way they dress and you want to up your fashion game. Whatever the reason, be clear and communicate it efficiently. Instead of just mindlessly following their lead (which can result in a case of the copy cat) or asking for a little bit too much (making you seem like a leech), handle yourself professionally and make a business deal. If you ask you shall receive, but how will you receive if you don’t know what you’re asking for?
Return On Investment
If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. And if yours is covered in a 5-foot –long coattail then I’ll scratch it even harder. Giving is a genuine quality, but people can only give so much before their cup is empty. If you’re going to hop on someone else’s parade, you better be part of a darn-good float. Or know how to march. Or play a trombone. Or… well you get the point. When seeking advancement through the means of another, it’s imperative to give back. Give more to get more. So what can you offer? Are you available to them when they need help? Do you have a connection they could benefit from? What about a skill set that they lack? Money to pay? Think about your pool of abilities and let the leader know why you’re worth it. Always think “what’s in it for them” instead of only focusing on “what’s in it for me?” and you’ll be surprised to know you get more than you are in for. Avoid the ‘take, take, take’ mentality at ALL COSTS.
The Fortune Is In The Follow Up
Be good for your word. If you offer them something, and they are giving you a ride in return, you better do what you say will. Someone who offers, but takes with no return is a thief. Save the stealing for Robin Hood and show your integrity within every exchange. Modeling yourself after someone can take you far if done correctly. Think of it like a temp job. If you hire an employee and they prove to work hard and proficiently, you’ll hire them again. Heck, you may even employ them full-time. Same goes for coat-tailing. If you treat someone who guides you with dignity and respect, they will be more apt to helping you back. But, if you show that you’re all talk and no action, you’ll begin to burn bridges and build a bad rep. So take your time and use your brilliant mind to get to where you want to go. Just remember, you can never be someone else and your most valuable presence is being authentically you. So even if you ride a coattail to get to the top, make sure you don’t lose yourself along the way.