We all need mentors to help us grow and learn. Asking someone to be your mentor can be daunting. Half of the battle is actually making sure you don’t chicken out and decide not to do it because of xyz. Even though it can be scary to ask someone to take on this role, remember that people are usually flattered if they are asked to be a mentor.
There are many ways to ask someone to be your mentor. Here are some dos and don’ts that may help:
- Communicate what you respect about him/her – It shows that you know why you would like them to be your mentor. Genuine praise also goes a long way. Try to find “deep” reasons that demonstrate that you’ve really thought about this, instead of shallow ones. A deep reason could be something like this: “I really respect how you handle work life balance while holding such a senior position.” A shallow reason sounds like this: “I want you to be my mentor because you are successful.”
- Communicate your situation and how their mentorship can help – People become mentors because they are inspired by the passion and potential of those they mentor. Share where you are headed with your life and career, and why their experience/advice can help.
- Actually ask the question – “Would you consider being my mentor?” – Some people shy away from the question and can leave the other person confused. If the person is a stranger, perhaps start with coffee instead of asking the question outright. People only become mentors when there is personal rapport and mutual respect. First ask to see if you can meet or call them once, and then see if you can build rapport with them. You also don’t want someone to be your mentor just because they have cool experience. You want to inspire them to care about where you are headed.
- Communicate what type of mentor relationship you are looking for - This includes both the type of advice/feedback you are hoping to receive, and how often you hope to interact (once a quarter, every month, ad-hoc, etc…). Many people are happy to be mentors, but are also very busy people. Clearly articulating what kind of relationship you want to build with them will help them decide if they want to take this on.
- Listen and adapt to their response – Very likely this person will be happy to be your mentor, but may counter about the frequency of communication. Just go with it.
- Follow up – It’s up to you to make it easy for your mentor to help you. If this person agrees to be your mentor, he or she would still expect you to take the lead, figure out how best to communicate, and proactively build the relationship over time.
- Expect a yes response, and don’t take it personally. You have given it your best shot. If the person cannot fit it in their schedule, then it won’t work anyway. Just think of it as practice, so one day you can ask Donald Trump or Marissa Mayers to be your mentor
- Assume what’s convenient for them. Everyone works and interacts differently. Ask them what’s the best way to keep in touch, approach them when you need advice, and then follow what they say.
- Wait too long before asking. Timing will help your cause. If you just recently worked with them, and you want them to be your mentor, then ask them soon. This way, they still have a strong impression of who you are.
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