How to Ask Someone to be Your Mentor
As a growing professional, a mentor can be invaluable as you move forward in your career. Great mentors can be a sounding board for your ideas, provide helpful and insightful advice, introduce you to talented people in your industry, and maybe even help you secure a new position.
The relationship you have with your mentor can help you progress more quickly and make the right decisions to aid in your continued professional success.
The perfect mentor will probably not find you, so you will likely need to proactively nurture and cultivate a relationship that will benefit you. It’s not as simple as walking up to the CEO of your company and asking, “Do you want to be my mentor?”
You will need to select the right individual and build an open and honest relationship with that person so that mentorship begins to happen organically. Here are some strategies to use when trying to find and request the right mentor.
Find the Right Person
There are some things you need to do before you send out an email blast to senior executives to see if anyone will bite. First, it's essential that you find the person who can help you the most, who has the time to help you and shares communication preferences with you.
Consider what you are looking for in your career and what you want to gain from a mentor. As mentioned earlier, the CEO of a company may not be the best resource for you. After all, they have a lot on their plate and may not be able to make enough time to have an impact on your career.
You will want to choose someone who is a few levels above you, who has qualities you want to emulate, and who has the time and dedication to helping you. Think about who you admire, most often it would be someone in your organization, and how their goals and career path align with yours.
If you can’t immediately identify the right person, reach out to your human resources department. Sometimes, your company might have a mentorship program that will appoint a mentor based on specific criteria.
If your organization does not have this type of program, human resources personnel might still be an excellent resource for helping you to identify or arranging an introduction with someone in your company.
Do your research preemptively, on your industry and the person you are hoping to approach so that if you do meet them, you have knowledge on their background and are able to ask them questions that they can answer.
You don’t want to ask someone about a project that they’ve never worked on, or about a situation that they’ve never encountered as they won’t be able to offer advice. Instead, prepare and ask them poignant questions about their experiences that pertains to your career.
Make the Request
Once you’ve found the ideal person you want to have as your mentor, it’s now time to begin your relationship. There does not need to be a formal request for mentorship, especially in the beginning.
If you don’t know the person at all, they might be caught off guard or overwhelmed if you just ask them outright to be your mentor. Their communication style might not match with yours, and if they agreed to be your mentor, you may be stuck with someone that you don't work well with.
It's essential to have an informal meeting, where you ask them for some advice, to kick off your relationship and learn if you both want to continue meeting from there.
Start the relationship by asking for one piece of advice. Your initial introduction should let them know what you admire most about them (i.e., career path, work, ability to lead, etc.). Then ask if you could ask them for advice on your own career.
Respect their time and make the first meeting quick and informal, like grabbing a cup of coffee. Requesting one hour for lunch right off the bat will probably scare off your potential mentor.
Hello Mr. Doe,
I’ve been admiring your career path from afar for quite some time. Your leadership skills are an inspiration to me, and I was wondering if I could ask you for advice on my own career? All I’m asking for is 15 minutes of your time, and I would love to buy you a cup of coffee in return. Let me know if you are open to a meeting and what your schedule looks like over the coming weeks.
If you meet for coffee and the meeting goes well, you can discuss the idea of setting up a recurring meeting once a quarter. Once you become more familiar with the person or if you’ve chosen a mentor that you already know well, you can certainly make a more formal request.
In this situation, you need to be clear with them on your expectations of the relationship. How often would you like to meet, will it be in person or over the phone? These are all things you need to establish up front, so your mentor has a clear idea of what you need from them.
You should also clarify what you plan to discuss with them. Will you be asking this person for advice on how to deal with work situations, will you turn to them to discuss potential career changes, are you looking for training?
These are all things your mentor should be aware of so that they can dedicate the right amount of time and resources to help you.
No matter how your potential mentor responds, you need to be gracious and thank them, even if their response is negative. Whether they agree to be your mentor or not, you want to keep this relationship professional and open.
The intended mentor might be too busy right now, but they might think of you if their schedule opens, so always be courteous and be sure to keep the relationship positive and open-ended.
If they seem to be on the fence, ask them if there is anything you can do for them in return. In some circumstances, there might be something you can offer them, be it sharing articles they’ve written or helping them promote an upcoming project they have. If there is something of value you can offer them, it will lead to a more symbiotic relationship where you are both helping each other.
Having a mentor that you can turn to for career advice can transform your career, make you a better employee and help you progress forward. Choosing the right person and introducing yourself in the right way can make all the difference in your future success.
Often, people in higher positions once had a mentor help them, and they are excited to pay it forward. However, they want it to be comfortable with clear expectations laid out for them.
Follow these pieces of advice to begin working your way toward a positive mentorship relationship and continue progressing forward in your career.