How To Ask For A Mentor: 7 Essential Tips On How To Approach A Potential Mentor
In my very first writing job at a magazine, my managing editor told me from the get-go that she would be happy to serve as my mentor. With 0 experience in the field, I had no idea how to approach sources, conduct an interview, and how to network in events.
Most of these things I learned on the job, but when I was stuck, I knew that I could approach my editor and she’d be happy to give me advice.
I’ve been quite fortunate in that regard—most of my bosses have been willing to put in the time and effort to guide me and set me up for professional success. But not everyone is as lucky, and there are other areas of our lives (e.g. the spiritual, emotional, and physical aspects) that would also benefit from guidance.
Sometimes, you have to seek out your mentors. Many of the people you respect and admire would be happy to contribute to your growth. That is, if they think you’re worth the time and effort. That’s the challenge: how to ask for a mentor in a way that would get their attention.
How to ask for a Mentor?
How do you approach a mentor? How do you convince someone to invest in you? Here are some tips on how to ask for a mentor to keep in mind.
1. Set clear goals
Don’t mistake a mentor for a career counselor—they’re not going to do the work of setting your goals for you. Plus, with no direction, how would you even know who to approach?
Understand what you want to achieve in your career and you’ll have a clearer idea of what kind of guidance you’ll need.
2. Don’t ask them right from the get-go
If you’re using email to approach someone to be your mentor, don’t hold your breath waiting for a response. If you're looking for the best way on how to ask for a mentor, ask for a 15-minute meeting or phone call—actually having a conversation would increase your chances for success.
3. Show your value
Highly successful people—the kind of people you want to mentor you—are incredibly busy, and they probably get requests from ambitious young people for advice and mentorship. Why would they use their precious time giving you free advice? Give them a compelling reason.
Sometimes, this could mean offering your mentor a service, like maybe your social media expertise or Photoshop skills. Demonstrate what you can do—have a portfolio ready, craft a social media strategy, write up a plan—to show that you’re not just full of hot air, and should they agree, always look for ways to help your mentor.
If you’re more experienced, tell your potential mentor about your work and how their expertise would be integral to your success. Sometimes, the satisfaction of knowing that they’ve contributed to the success of a talented, ambitious person is enough motivation.
4. Do your homework
Don’t bore your mentor with vague, hippy-dippy questions like “what is the secret to your success?” Don’t be lazy and ask questions just for the sake of asking questions. And for goodness’ sake, don’t ever ask questions that are easily Googleable.
Read up on your mentor. What kind of work has she done? What books has he written? Tell them why you’re approaching them specifically, what issues you think they can help you with, and show how you can follow through and actually use their advice to move towards your goals.
5. Set expectations early on
Once you’ve established contact with a potential mentor, follow through. Let them know how much time you think you’ll need from them. You might want to meet with your mentor every month, every quarter, or even once a year.
They might say no and ask for a less formal arrangement, of course. But setting expectations from the very beginning makes it easier for them to accommodate you in the future.
6. Be flexible
Again, the kind of people you want to ask to be your mentor have incredibly busy schedules. You have to work around their schedule—it’s never the other way round. And don’t take it personally if they decline.
7. Nurture your relationship
Keeping a mentor-mentee relationship strong involves, of course, listening and actually taking their advice. Aside from that, do what you can to give back.
Remember what I said earlier about having something to offer your mentor? Once you’ve established a relationship, ask your mentor how you can assist them. The best mentor-mentee relationships are mutually beneficial, and if you put in the work, you might have the beginnings of a life-long relationship.
Did you find these tips on how to ask for a mentor helpful? What has worked for you? Let us know in the comments.
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