Ah, the mentor. The one thing everyone tells you is so necessary for your career – and yet, no one can tell you how to get one. How are you supposed to get someone to agree to guide you through life?
We feel you; it’s awkward. But it can be done! Here’s how.
1. Be open.
Mentorship can come from anywhere. Develop and maintain relationships with everyone you meet. You never know when that Administrative Assistant will get a major promotion, and you’ll be kicking yourself for ignoring them when you first met.
One of the most important factors in finding mentors is to network with folks who you truly find interesting and inspiring. When you reach out to people and that’s the case, it will shine through.
Don’t narrow your search for a mentor to senior employees at your top five dream companies. You can receive guidance from people from all levels and walks of life, and closing yourself off to opportunities to make connections will hurt you in the long run.
2. Make things easy.
Do not ever send an email like this one:
It was great meeting you at FindSpark’s speed networking night! I’d love to work at Dunder Mifflin someday. Could you tell me more about it?
Imagine that you’re Michael. You’re a BFD at Dunder Mifflin, and you barely have time to respond to emails from people you know and like. You take one look at this email, think “where do I even begin?” and move onto the next one.
If you want to get Michael’s attention, you need to make it as easy as possible for him to respond. Try something like this:
It was great meeting you at FindSpark’s speed networking night! I loved hearing about your work at Dunder Mifflin, especially about how you (something specific they spoke about). I’m interested in working in paper sales after I graduate in May. I’m the VP of the Paper Sales Club and (something else that shows you’re proactive in learning / gaining industry experience).
Would you have time in the upcoming weeks to meet for coffee and chat about your experiences? I’d be happy to meet over Zoom at or near your office if that’s more convenient for you. I look forward to hearing from you!
This email is more informative, but still gets right to the point. Michael could reply with a simple “Sure, Tuesday at 3?” instead of a long explanation of his experience at Dunder Mifflin. Make things easy and simple for your mentor-to-be, and you’ll be their mentee before you know it.
3. Be persistent…
If you think you’re busy, you know your future mentor is even busier. Don’t be hurt when they don’t respond to your email. Give them a week or two, then follow up. Emails get buried in inboxes and no response does not mean no interest.
Email is usually the best way to connect, but you can use one or two other channels to keep in touch. Following them on Twitter or sending a request on LinkedIn is a good way to stay on their radar.
Check out their social media profiles and see where they’re most active. If they’re an avid tweeter but haven’t updated their LinkedIn profile in two years, it’s pretty clear which one you’re more likely to reach them through.
4. …but not aggressive.
Sending a follow-up email and a LinkedIn request is one thing. Sending three follow-up emails, two tweets, a LinkedIn message, and a Facebook request is another.
If you’ve reached out to your mentor twice with no response, it’s time to move on. It may not have anything to do with you – people get busy with work and their personal lives and sometimes just can’t handle giving guidance to someone else. There are plenty of fish in the sea, as they say, and we know you can find the perfect fish to advise you through your career.
5. Don’t force it.
There are few things more awkward than someone straight-up asking you, “Will you be my mentor?”
Your mentor/mentee relationship doesn’t have to be quite so defined. It’s usually enough to just ask someone you admire to have coffee and let you pick their brain. If they offer to look over your resume, great! If they want to refer you to a job, even better!
It’s best to let those things happen naturally. Don’t ask them to be your mentor; make yourself the perfect mentee. Which brings us to our final tip…
6. Kick ass.
This one is easy. Be yourself. Show your mentor you’re a badass professional. Bring your resume to your coffee dates, but only bring it out if they ask. Express your career interests and goals to them, but don’t demand a job. Just be your all-around ass-kicking self and they’ll want to bring opportunities to you.
How did you land your mentor? Tell us your story in the comments!