Mentors are wise people who help us go farther and faster than we could by travelling alone. Tommy Kiedis
They are wise words! The right mentor can inspire, guide and help you along your personal and professional journey. You need to spend some time looking for potential mentors and deciding who would be the best mentor for you. Once you have a short list of potential candidates you need to approach them one at a time.
Four Steps to ask someone to be your mentor:
1. Clearly define your goals
It’s very hard to understand if a mentoring relationship is successful when you don’t know what you are evaluating. This is why you need to have very clear goals and objectives set before you even think about approaching anyone to mentor you. You need to ask yourself:
- What do I want out of this relationship? Is it someone to help introduce me to other people and network better, someone to help me with a weakness I have, someone to teach me something I need to learn to succeed etc…
- Decide how often you would like to meet with your mentor, keeping in mind that their time is important. Remember they are not your personal coach or tutor they are a guide and a mentor.
- Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. List them all down and flag the ones you really would like your mentor to help you with.
- When you have evaluated everything, take the time to write down your short and long term goals, strengths and weaknesses and what exactly you will be asking your mentor to help you with.
- Ask to meet up
This is often the hardest step in establishing a mentor relationship. You need to ask for what you want but it feels too forward and awkward and there is a very real danger you will come across as a stalker. The key is really in the language you use. Try to follow these basic steps:
- Invite your potential mentor out to lunch or ask them to catch up for a coffee.
- Tell them what it is about them that you find inspiring or that you admire most. Explain to them that these are the qualities you would also like to develop in yourself.
- Ask for their advice by using the word ‘mentoring’ rather than making it personal with the word mentor. For example – I could really use some mentoring to help me develop my networking skills….you seem to be especially good at establishing and maintaining business relationships and I was hoping to be able to learn from you. Do you have any advice for me regarding my networking skills?
- Gauge their response
- If they are positive you may probe a little further – That’s great feedback, I will gove that a try. Would you be willing to meet with me now and then to discuss and work on this further.
- Follow through
If your potential mentor is keen to pursue a relationship with you it is important to follow through in a timely manner. If your first meeting was a casual one like the example above your second meeting should be used to establish clear parameters for the relationship.
- Clearly articulate your goals, objectives and areas you would like to focus on based on your assessment of your strengths and weaknesses.
- Agree how often you will meet so it suits both your needs.
- Be positive and enthusiastic but do not go overboard – they are not your therapist.
2. Help Each Other
Once the ground rules are firmly in place you need to ensure the relationship is mutually beneficial.
- Ask if there is any way you could be helpful to your mentor. You could volunteer or intern at their company, you may be able to introduce them to useful people etc…
- Thank them for their time and advice
- Let them know how they have helped you and what this has helped you achieve
Asking someone to be your mentor can be awkward and uncomfortable but if you follow the basic steps above it should be no where near as difficult. Remember, never ask anyone outright – will you be my mentor? This just does not work. Ask for advice, guidance, input and the results will be much more positive.
3. It’s not a date
Be very careful if the person you are approaching as a mentor is of the opposite sex and a similar age to you. Be clear in your communication you do not want them to misinterpret your approach.
4. I’m so busy
If you try and set up a time to meet with a potential mentor and they keep cancelling or cannot commit to a day then it’s a clear sign they are too busy to invest the time you need for a successful mentor relationship.