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How Do I Ask Someone to Be a Mentor?

A mentor can be invaluable in your working life. A person a little further down the career line offering guidance can help you cultivate the professional path you want to take. Mentorship helps with positive, productive feedback, insight into the industry, and great networking contacts. But it doesn’t often happen by mistake.

Seeking out a mentor is intentional, and requires steps to find – and ask – the right person for active counsel.

Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living — if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.”

Denzel Washington

First steps, first:

Step 1: Make Sure You Have The Right Person for You

Like any relationship, it’s important to consider before committing. Make sure you have chosen someone who you think is well equipped – both personally and professionally – to mentor you. The ideal mentor should be a few levels ahead in their career, in order to be able to show you what to avoid in your own profession. 

If there’s a person who springs to mind, that’s a good gut feeling to go with. Follow it to… 

Step 2: Make Your Request for Mentorship

Once you’ve got your perfect mentor in mind, reach out to them to ask for mentorship. If you know the person well already, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a formal request. 

Go in prepared and lay down the groundwork and your rationale. Say something like “I really appreciate your advice” or “I would love to learn more from you” and then open up the request for mentorship. Lead the conversation, offering what you might expect from them while bearing in mind their time and capacity. Actively communicate what areas you would like guidance in, whether it’s building a strategy, choosing a career trajectory, or learning more profession-based knowledge. 

It’s important to consider how often you’d like to meet with them, to give your agenda a specific focus, and to remember that they are not obliged to say yes. 

It’s advised that you offer something in return. See if there’s anything you can help them with. This will show your interest in making it a mutually beneficial relationship, as well as provide you with more of a platform to learn from them.

Step 3: Accept the Answer 

If the person does not have the capacity, be gracious and understanding about it. Respect their decision and reflect that the timing might not be right.

If the person is able to mentor you, congratulations! Accept that too, along with the advice you are given. Learn from them and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

It’s important to consider how often you’d like to meet with them, to give your agenda a specific focus, and to remember that they are not obliged to say yes. 

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