We believe that having a mentor is a key component to personal and professional success. Mentors are able to share from their experiences (both good and bad) to help us make better decisions and avoid costly missteps.
Sometimes a mentoring relationship is formal (perhaps part of a structured program), and sometimes it is informal. Sometimes it is ongoing, and often it’s a one-time discussion. Read about the differences here.
As someone who is asked to be a mentor on a regular basis, I have some insights on what you need to consider before you ask someone to mentor you.
1. Your prospective mentor is busy. Probably very busy. Make the ask as easy on them as possible.
2. They don’t need you to buy them coffee. It’s nice to offer, but what motivates them to give of their time is the idea that they can be a difference maker in your career or life.
3. Ask for just one meeting. Don’t expect a mentor to commit more time until they know it’s going to be worth it.
4. Be prepared to define exactly what you would like to learn. Share this right up front.
5. Do your homework. Don’t ask the mentor to summarize content that you can read on your own.
6. Explore the opportunity to shadow. See the mentor in a real world experience, where you are allowed to hang back and observe.
7. Share a little. Listen a lot.
8. Come with written questions. And take notes to demonstrate engagement. We gave you a list of questions here.
9. Write a thank you note. Even better – send your mentor a follow-up describing how you have acted on their counsel.
10. If appropriate, offer a reverse-mentoring experience. For example: “I could show you how people tell stories on Snapchat.”
Bonus thought: Find someone you can mentor (even if it is a student). Being a mentor will make you a better mentee.
If you are still working up the courage to ask someone to meet you for coffee or lunch, we want to encourage you to take the first step before the next quarter. Remember, if you don’t ask, you’ve already told yourself no.