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How to approach a possible mentor

Posted on 31 August 2022

How to approach a possible mentor

4-minute read

Finding the right mentor can have a monumental impact on your career. A study from Sage.com found that 97% of those with a mentor found the relationship valuable, but worryingly 85% currently do not have a mentor.

Having trusted companion(s) throughout your career, supporting and offering guidance along the way can help steer and pivot your career toward new heights. You may be lucky enough to have a mentor right now or have access to a mentoring programme via your employer. What we aim to do with this article is show you how to approach a possible mentor (internally or externally) if this is not the case, or if you want to look for another mentor (yes, there is no limit to how many mentors you have!).

We will break the process down into tasks, that way you can read a section at a time and keep referring back when you are ready to move on. Before we begin, however, you might have realised we used the word ‘possible’ in the title, it is important to remember that not everyone will agree to be your mentor, but if this does happen, we have some advice to help you out.

 

Step 1: Decision time

Despite the staggering statistics in favour of having a mentor, the first question you need to be able to answer is ‘why do you need a mentor?’.

Without having a clear understanding of ‘why’ and ‘what’ you need from a mentor, Step 2 and beyond cannot happen.

If you have created a ‘Career Roadmap’ this step should be straightforward (if not, we wrote an article about it, feel free to check it out)

We recommend having several clear actions you hope to gain from having this specific mentor, note them down for the future as you will use these to construct your request in Step 5.

 

Step 2: Research possible mentors

Once you have identified ‘why’ and ‘what’ you need from a mentor, it is now time to start researching who could be a possible match. Technology will break down borders so don’t worry if they are not in the same country, as long as you are happy to be mentored remotely. If you do approach someone further away, just be mindful of time differences, an effective mentorship relationship requires communication on a semi-regular basis.

This will likely be the longest step in the process, do take your time and ensure you use all avenues available to you from internal resources (if you are approaching a colleague) to external platforms (LinkedIn, Slack, GitHub, Dribble, Mtor.io etc.)

Remember, not everyone will say ‘yes’, therefore aim to find up to five possible mentors, decreasing your chances of repeating this step later in the process.

During this step, we are mainly looking for commonalities. Has the person achieved, learned or worked in the same area you are looking to step into? Do you belong to the same sort of groups or have the same sort of interests? The trick is to use your research to identify both soft and hard skills that can create a strong mentoring relationship.

Once you have your list, keep note of them and move on to Step 3.

 

Step 3: Where is best to approach them?

What you need to do in this step is identify where your possible mentors are most active, online and/or offline. If you researched thoroughly, this shouldn’t take too long, it’s the platform or place where the mentor is most active usually.

Like before, made a note of these places as you will return to them in Step 4.

 

Step 4: How should you approach them?

So far, we know ‘why’ and ‘what’ we need a mentor for. We know who we want to ask and we know where is the best place to approach them. Step 4 is all about the ‘how’, do we do it ‘formally’ or ‘informally’

Only you will know the answer to this, but based on your research it might be anything from a LinkedIn message formally asking or an informal beer at a meet-up or a scheduled meeting at work.

 

Step 5: Constructing your request

This step is where we put everything together into your request for mentorship. Depending on how you intend to approach the individual (s), you can either write your request or have notes ready for when you bring it up in a conversation, either way, use these guides to help you:

  • Be clear as to ‘why’ you would like them to mentor you (draw on your research about them).

  • State specifically ‘what’ you need from the mentoring relationship (this will be from your Step 1 prep).

  • Keep the message short and sweet (offline and online)

  • Be patient, and respect their time, they will respond if they are (1) interested or (2) have time.

  • If they decline your request, ask them if they know someone else similar in their network who might be open to support you.

Step 6: Dealing with rejection

Lastly, if someone says ‘no’, not a problem, simply thank them and move on to your next researched mentor. The best mentoring relationships are mutually agreed upon, so it wasn’t to be with that person at that time, move on.

 

One last thought… you can approach people you don’t know. Don’t restrict yourself to your immediate network, you might have a better starting relationship with them but a mentoring relationship will develop over time.

To emphasise this point, we once reached out to the former Co-Founder of Loot Crates, Matthew Arevalo for guidance on a project, no prior relationship but support was given, you’ll be surprised how many people want to help.

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