All of us need mentors to help us grow and learn.  How to ask 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. People are usually flattered if they are asked to be a mentor. There are many ways to do it. Here are some DOs and DONTs that may help.

DOs

  • Communicate what you respect about him/her – it shows that you know why you would like them to be a mentor.   Genuine praise also goes a long way.  Try to find “deep” reasons that demonstrate you really thought about this instead of shallow ones.  An example of a deep reason might be I really respect how you handle work life balance while still holding such a senior position.  An example of a shallow reason would be 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.  So 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 just coffee instead of outright ask the question.  People only become mentors when there is personal rapport and mutual respect.   So 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 (one a quarter, every month, ad-hoc, etc…). Many people are happy to be mentors but are also very busy people.  Articulating clearly what kind of relationship you want to build help them decide.
  • Listen and adapt to their response – Very likely this person will be happy to be your mentor but may counter with 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 how best to communicate and proactive build the relationship over time.

DONTs

  • Don’t expect a YES response and don’t take it personally. You would have given 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
  • Don’t assume what’s convenient for them. Everyone works and interacts differently. Ask them the best way to keep in touch, approach them when you need advice, and then follow what they say
  • Don’t wait too long before asking. Timing will help your cause. If you just recently worked with them, then ask them soon if you want them to be your mentor.  This way, they still have a strong impression of who you are.

If you would like more help with finding mentors, developing your soft skills and accelerating your career success, sign up for a Soft Skills Membership.

See you at the top!  I am always in your corner

Lei

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12 Thoughts on “How to Ask Someone to be Your Mentor?

  1. I found this article to be very helpful, I would like to know your thoughts on reading a letter that I’m currently writing to my potential mentor and giving me some advice?

    • Lei Han on July 16, 2013 at 6:01 am said:

      I am glad you found it helpful. You can send me the letter by email at lei@bemycareercoach.com. My initial reaction however is why are you writing a letter to your mentor? Usually building a mentor relationship requires a more personal interaction – a call or better face to face. A letter seems a bit impersonal. I equate it to “asking someone out on a date by letter”

      On the other hand you can request a meeting by letter or email. Good luck

      Lei

  2. Eszter on May 13, 2013 at 10:28 am said:

    There’s a saying in Hungarian: “Rabbit shoots the hunter” – for people who criticize others and making worse errors.
    Dear Grant: the first letter did not need to be capitalized as it was not starting a new sentence, but following a comma.
    And yes, making such a blatant mistake as confusing their and there… sorry Grant, but that IS an indication of sub-par education.
    And you made another error: “It’s hard to believe you have the education listed in YOU bio…” How about “your bio”.
    It’s hard to believe you have any education.. ;))
    Manners, you don’t…

  3. peelc on May 3, 2013 at 7:15 am said:

    R. Grant-
    Don’t be so mean. Your spelling isn’t up to snuff either; e.g. “The first letter in the sentence isn’t capitalized and their is no punctuation.”
    It should be “The first letter in the sentence isn’t capitalized and THERE is no punctuation.”

  4. Lei Han on October 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm said:

    Ashley,

    Glad my article helped. I think the best mentors are the ones you personally know a little and those who know/care about you.

    I wish I have time to be many people’s mentors but unfortunately I don’t. This is why I created the website to help people even if I can’t do it one-on-one personally.

    Best wishes,
    Lei

  5. Wonderful. I appreciate this article greatly. Will you be my mentor Lei?? ;D

  6. Hi, I enjoyed reading your article and it has given me courage to look for and approach a mentor. Wat I did wonder was wat are the boundaries as to how high up the heirachy one can go in chosing their mentor. And does having an influential mentor eg, ur team leaders boss or the operation managers boss not get considered as favouritism shld u get promoted.

    Gwen

    • Gwen,
      Sorry for my very late response. I completely missed your comment until now. In case it still helps, go as high up as it’s possible for you to find a mentor. Remember, the higher up you go, the less likely he or she will agree to be your mentor as their time is tight and you have to inspire them to care about you to want to mentor you. If you did find rapport with someone high up and vice versa, then go for it. It’s in your advantage to have a senior mentor. Everyone should try to build out their network of supporters and mentors. Those who do are working smart and gaining the most career advantage.

      Some people may say this is favourtism but frankly it just sounds like they are upset that they didn’t have the same connection as you. As long as you didn’t force anyone to promote you and did anything under handed to get promoted, then what you actually did is invest the time to build relationships with the right people and as a result being recognized for the good work that you do. Pls let me know if you have any other questions

      Lei

  7. Lei Han on August 15, 2012 at 1:30 pm said:

    I am glad the article is helpful. That is my only goal and priority with this blog. I have a full time job, two kids, and I write these articles on this blog and in my newsletter in my free time. I either can strive to be perfect and write less posts or none at all and help less people or I can write more posts and not worry so much about small issues like grammar mistakes as long as my advice still helps. I consciously choose the latter.

    It sounds like my advice still came across and that’s good enough for me. I think part of being an executive is knowing how to prioritize and what is important.

    I am happy to receive help from anyone who wants to edit my articles and share with me their suggested corrections.

    Lei

  8. R Grant on August 15, 2012 at 12:19 pm said:

    I would like to start by saying that this article contains really good tips on asking someone to be your mentor. However, the article is riddled with poor grammar and punctuation.

    I had copied the information for one of my classes, but quickly realized that I had to go back and correct many of the mistakes.

    For example, the last sentence of the second DONT, ” and then follow what they say”. The first letter in the sentence isn’t capitalized and their is no punctuation.

    It’s hard to believe you have the education listed in you bio and you would write an article of this quality.

  9. Lei Han on November 4, 2011 at 5:40 pm said:

    So glad to hear this article helped Leslie. Let me know how it goes.

  10. thank you for this! I have recently requested a PR VP to be mine, off the strength of this article, we will see how that goes so standby!! 8*)

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