How to Ask Someone to Be Your Mentor

A mentor can be a valuable sounding board, an advocate and a source of advice.  But how do you ask someone if they are willing to put their time and energy into you? In short, landing a great mentor takes patience and some careful preparation. Here are some tips for asking someone to be your mentor.

Step 1: Career Goals
Start by reviewing (or setting) career goals. Who best exemplifies the title or experience you’re trying to acquire? Who represents the type of leader you want to be? 

Read: For more help with career planning read, “Career Planning Challenges for Accountants.

Step 2: Accessibility
If your company already has a formal mentoring program, this step is fairly straightforward. If this is not the case, then you need to evaluate the accessibility of your potential mentor. Your manager, or a manager with whom you work cross-functionally, is a good bet, as is a personal connection in another organization. Perhaps your prospective mentor is connected to a friend – making an introduction (or 2nd meeting) much easier to arrange.

Pro Tip: Ideally, your mentor would work in the same organization that you do. Do not, however, disregard the idea of a mentor who works for another company, particularly if they have the skills and attributes you want to grow in yourself.

Step 3: Research
Once you’ve decided who you’d like to approach, do your research. Take a look at their LinkedIn profile. Make notes on their career journey. Understanding some of the choices they’ve made will help you build rapport during your initial meeting.

The Right Approach

Scenario #1 
Sometimes, if you already have a personal relationship, the mentor/mentee part develops naturally as you seek advice from someone with greater knowledge than yourself.

Scenario #2
You know the individual, but you want to formalize the mentor/mentee relationship. Perhaps they are a manager in another department, or someone you’ve interacted with several times at a networking function. In other words, there is already a basic connection.

  • The goal is to build the relationship
  • Ask if the person if they want to meet – ask questions about the career choices they’ve made and projects that they’re passionate about – i.e. make the meeting about them, not you
  • Listen more than speak
  • Consider asking them for advice on a specific issue
  • Follow-up after the meeting, letting them know that you appreciated their time
  • Continue to build the relationship by periodically checking in (every 2 to 3 weeks), or sending them articles that you think will interest them based on your previous conversations
  • As you get to know them, you’ll get a sense of whether or not this person would be truly suitable as a mentor. If you want to move forward after a few months, consider explaining that you’d like the individual to be your mentor

If You Decide That You Do Want Someone to Be Your Mentor, Try Saying the Following:

  • Explain that you’re looking for a mentor
  • Communicate clearly why you think the person that you’re asking would be a great mentor
  • Make the conversation about what you feel you can learn from them. Mention shared interests if applicable. Express a willingness to volunteer on a project or initiative that they’re passionate about, or participate in an event that they’re helping to organize – make the mentoring role a two-way street by giving of own time
  • Remember that the individual is busy and always operate for a place of gratitude, not self-entitlement

Scenario #3
You do not know the individual, but you have seen them speak or are familiar with their work.

  • This scenario is the trickiest to navigate as you’ll need to start from the ground up
  • Ideally, you know someone who has a connection with the individual you’d like as your mentor
  • Use LinkedIn to see if anyone in your network is connected to your prospective mentor, and reach out to that individual to see if they could arrange an introduction, or at least give the prospective mentor a heads up that you’ll be reaching out
  • If this is a true cold call, then use LinkedIn to start developing a relationship
  • Explain in an email that you have followed their work/seen them speak/attended a professional development workshop they led, etc.
  • Ask for 30 minutes of their time. Explain that you hope to follow a similar career path and would love to ask them about some of their career choices
  • Build the relationship
  • Don’t ask them to mentor you in the first meeting
  • Much like in scenario 2, make the meeting about them. Respect their time. 
  • Follow the tips in scenario 2 for building a relationship and formalizing a mentoring role

Pro Tip: Tell your prospective mentor that you are dedicated to the process and want to learn as much as possible.

Key Takeaways
If you want someone to be your mentor, it’s important that you operate from a place of respect and gratitude. Research your prospective mentor in advance. Ask for a meeting and make the conversation about the individual and their career choices. Continue to build the relationship and determine if this is an individual that you can truly learn from. If so, after a period of time, it’s not unreasonable to ask the individual if they’d be willing to be your mentor. Be honest about what you feel you can learn and express a willingness to give back to your mentor by volunteering your own time. 

Your Next Step
No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.