How to ask someone to be your mentor
If you’re serious about your career, you’ve probably heard a lot about the value of having a good mentor — someone who can support you and teach you so you can grow in the direction you want. But if you’ve found a professional who you think could be a good mentor for you, how do you go about asking him or her?
The first thing you need to do is to determine exactly what you’re asking for. Do you want in-depth insights into the industry, career advice from a more seasoned professional, thoughts on current trends in the sector, or all of the above? You should also ask yourself how hands-on you want the mentoring to be, since there’s a significant difference between multiple emails a week and bi-weekly lunches, for example.
Next, you should find out as much as possible about the potential mentor in order to validate your request. If you’re in marketing and the person you want as a mentor has spearheaded multiple successful marketing campaigns, study those campaigns so you can ask intelligent questions about them. This will make it easier to demonstrate that you’re informed about what the professional has achieved and that you’d like to learn from their expertise.
Now for the difficult part: the ask. While it’s always best to ask someone to mentor you in person, you’ll likely have to send them an email first to set up a meeting. According to Sabina Nawaz in her Forbes article “9 Tips to Land a Great Mentor: How to Ask a Stranger for Career Advice,” you should compose a short email that refers to the person’s expertise, expresses your own aspirations in the same field, and asks for 15 minutes of his or her time.
If the person agrees to meet you, it’s critical that you’re punctual, polite, and to the point. State what you’re looking for and why you think this person would be a good fit. You should also offer something in return — many mentors simply ask that you pay it forward when the time is right. Be prepared to not get an answer right away; the person might want to research you some more and give the idea of mentorship some thought. Remember to keep the meeting to no more than 15 minutes and thank the person for his or her time.
Granted, asking someone to be your mentor might seem intimidating, but it’s well worth the effort. Hopefully, the professional you have chosen will agree to mentor you, and you can build a strong, long-lasting mentorship relationship. But if not, be gracious about the response and simply keep looking.