5 Pillars: The Well Placed Mentor

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Image by Riccardo Annandale via Unsplash.


Cultivate at least one Well-Placed Mentor to co-validate your bridge plan. Continue to engage your general mentors on what they do best.


  1. Study your target. Quarterly financials, news reports. Write 2-3 key benefits for customers. Why select this solution vs competitor alternatives?

  2. Attend the #1 Event. Where do the people doing this role step onstage and present?

  3. Create new contacts at the event. Who can help you identify a Well-Placed Mentor? Who could you benefit from an informational with?

  4. Develop a clear objective and agenda. Present it to the Well-Placed Mentor.

  5. Align on a time-bound plan to bridge Your Next Big Thing.

What is a Well-Placed Mentor?

In one of my first 5 Pillars workshops, a bright graduate student asked for clarification. As a student athlete, he described how long-term mentorship by his high school baseball coach continued to provide inspiration and resilience.

Am I encouraging you to deprioritize beneficial people in your life? Certainly not. I responded that inspiration and resilience are rare commodities we all need more of.

I encourage you to leverage multiple, general-purpose mentors for soft skills (communication, effective writing) or hard skills in a particular area (Python).

A well-placed mentor must be close to the decision point for your Next Big Thing. They deeply understand the people, dynamics and culture involved in the decision on what happens to YOU. This adds several precious percentage points of success to your next evaluation (job, promo, investor).

A Well-Placed Mentor will:

Validate motivation and planning

  1. Eliminate guessing about what matters to these exact decision makers. Careers are complex. Evaluation criteria and expectations reach beyond what is copy-pasted into a job description.

  2. Focus your preparation and time investment correctly. Consider any time-bound career objective (relocate to New York City before the school year starts, get promoted while on maternity leave). You can't afford to miss key requirements.

Without accurate feedback from a Well-Placed Mentor, it's easy to over invest on certain requirements and fail to sufficiently develop others. Only a Well-Placed Mentor can clarify and provide context on the gossip we might hear from peers about what is required.

General vs Well-Placed Mentor Conversations

Here are a few examples contrasting the two. Can you spot which is which?

Managing Strengths & Weaknesses

  1. From what you told me, it sounds like you are doing great at a lot of things!

  2. From what you told me, this hiring manager will love X and be concerned about lack of Y. What actions could you take to enhance your strengths and mitigate the weaknesses? #ReasonsToBelieve #5Pillars