A few months ago, Shonda Rhimes came across my Instagram timeline in a video promoting her MasterClass for aspiring TV writers. I almost jumped out of my seat. I’m not really interested in writing for TV per se, but writing in any form is a serious skill, and Shonda’s got it down pat. To get an opportunity to learn from the titan herself? Yes please! If there’s even a sliver of hope that she could make me a gladiator like Olivia Pope, I’m all over it.

In an ideal world, choosing a mentor would always be that easy. You’d get that spark and know immediately that learning form this person would revolutionize your life. But it’s rarely ever that simple, especially if you’re looking for a mentor online.

The internet is brimming with “experts” on everything from blogging to small business, and all of them promise to help you slay at one thing or another. But online, it’s easy for nearly anyone to look like a pro and hard to tell what you’ll really be paying for. How do you know who to choose when everyone’s got polished websites, cutesy inspirational Instagram posts, and a couple thousand followers singing their praises?

Naturally, everyone shines the spotlight on their brightest moments. Even Beyonce only posts her finest selfies. Mentors are no exception. Of course they’re going to show you their highlight reel. But don’t get too caught up on pictures of vacation getaways and captions full of inspiring words and forget what you’re really looking for. Sometimes the hype is just a cover up for a lack of real success.

Look for proof that your potential mentor is actually good at what they do. A business coach should have a history of business success. A personal branding expert should be able to point to brands they’ve helped develop. If all you want is #inspiration, search it up on IG, but a true mentor has real wins they’re able to translate into applicable knowledge they can use to coach you.

If you’re worried your own judgment isn’t enough, don’t be shy about getting feedback from people who’ve worked with these mentors. If you wouldn’t buy a new foundation without checking out Youtube reviews, you shouldn’t pick a mentor without getting the inside scoop from someone who’s learned from them. Ask other clients what they got from the mentorship experience and how they felt it impacted their success and use those answers to help you gauge whether their mentorship is worth your investment.

Another great way to spot a good mentor is by looking at their freebies. Most online coaches and mentors offer loads of free content–newsletters, blog posts, printable worksheets, even social media posts. Consider this your taste test. Good mentors aren’t scared to deliver gems in their free content because they know they have plenty more to share. So if your potential mentor’s free content is a mess, feels empty, or doesn’t inspire you, there’s a pretty good chance the stuff you’ve got to pay for isn’t going to be worth your coin. If the sample doesn’t leave you hungry for more, keep it moving.

If an online mentor passes all these tests, you might have a winner on your hands! There’s just one more thing to consider. Not every good mentor will be the mentor for you. Mentorship is a pretty personal relationship. Chemistry matters. You’ll want someone whose values and worldview align with yours so they can use their expertise to guide you towards what youwant. After all, you’re choosing a mentor as an investment into your goals, so it should absolutely be about you.

Somewhere out there in the big, wide digital world is your perfect mentor — your Shonda. You’ll have to squint past the hype, ask the tough questions, and do your research, but it will all be worth it at the end when you find the titan to your gladiator.

Let me know your thoughts on mentorship by dropping me a line at safiabartholomew.com! I’m @safiajb on instagram & snap!

Safia Bartholomew

Safia Bartholomew

Safia Bartholomew is a freelance writer, communications strategist and Co-Founder of New Girl on the Block. I’m a passionate storyteller who also helps entrepreneurs and creative types put words to what they do so that they reach and influence their target audience with a message that resonates and captivates.
Safia Bartholomew

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