How to Ask Someone to Be Your Mentor, 35+ Amazing Tips

Approaching a person you look up to can be very challenging. What more when asking someone to be your mentor?

We asked 35 experts to share their insights:

Table of Contents


Maureen McCann

Executive Career Strategist | Promotion Career Solutions

To find a mentor in your field, conduct preliminary research to identify who would make a great mentor for you.

Everyone is different, so before you begin your research, ask yourself what you want out of a mentor.

Are you looking for kindness? Directness? Someone financially driven? Spiritually driven? Supportive? Inspiring? Commanding? Maybe a bit of each? What are the qualities that make a great mentor for you?

Once you decide what you’re looking for (and why), you’ll be better informed to choose the best mentor for you.

Study ‘thought leaders’ in your industry

Who matches your criteria? Who made the list and why? Who didn’t? If you’re not sure where to look for mentors, consider joining professional associations for possible mentors.

When you’re studying them, be sure to do it discreetly. You don’t want to appear as some type of creepy stalker.

Learn what you can about their careers and their professional interests, so you have something to talk about when you reach out to them.

Pick one or two mentors you feel you’d like to learn from

Narrow your attention to no more than two potential candidates, and give these two individuals your full attention.

If you want to get the mentor you’ve chosen, you’ll have to do more than send an unsolicited email message. Reach out to people in your network to determine whether one might be able to facilitate an introduction.

“Hey Joe, I see you know Mentor1. S/he is the perfect mentor for me for these three reasons 1, 2, 3. I’d appreciate it if you could facilitate an introduction. Here’s what you might say…”

Lead with value

Before asking this new-to-you-person for a favor, identify what’s in it for them. What do they get out of this relationship? How will being your mentor add value to their life?

Instead of starting with, “Will you please be my mentor?” show your mentor what’s in it for them:

“My work, for the past five years, has been as a purpose-driven journalist. Telling the stories of everyday people; their struggles and their triumphs is at the core of the work I do. I’d like to learn more about your story; in fact, I’d like you to be my mentor. When you mentor someone, you share your expertise, wisdom, and experiences.”

There are many ways to approach a mentor. These are but a few things to consider before doing so.

Billy Goldberg

Billy Goldberg

President, The Buckeye Group, Inc. | Advisor, Billy Goldberg Partners

Modeling your behavior on someone that has already achieved what you want to accomplish allows you to take certain shortcuts by learning from the decisions they have made, both good and bad.

Determine what do you want from a mentor

Be clear on what you are looking for. Is it a career path? Is it navigating a particular industry? Is it general business acumen? It doesn’t matter what you need, just be able to articulate it.

There is no more valuable skill in business than the ability to communicate

Your ability to clearly articulate your intention will be evident in your note to a prospective mentor. Do not overthink however, but do be thoughtful. Take a few minutes to consider your objective, your audience, and the simplest way to communicate your objective to that particular audience.

“I hope to one day ________, and I have admired your work (or your ability to accomplish _______). I thought that your experiences might be something that you are willing to share and would allow me to pursue a similar path (or desired outcome) with the benefit of your wisdom.”

Ask for their time

Making sure to communicate that your interaction will be brief and that you intend to learn what you can without being intrusive.

“When would be a good time to connect? I promise not to take more than 15 minutes of your time. My aim for the initial call would be to further articulate my interests, understand if they align with yours, determine your interest in being a mentor, and what that might look like.”

Ultimately, your path is yours to make, but if you can get there with less friction due to the advice and experience of someone else, it can be potentially quicker and will certainly be more joyful.

Lori Davis, J.D.

Lori Davis

Career and College Consultant, Mortarboard and Tassel Collegiate Consulting LLC

Oftentimes, a mentor-mentee relationship is discovered organically—that is—through work relationships or via professional affiliations. These types of mentoring connections may be undefined and not always specifically designated as “mentorship.”

For those individuals without these relationships, the process of actively seeking a mentor may seem more daunting. Everyone is personally responsible for his/her career trajectory, so when seeking a mentor, one must prepare, jump in, and ASK!

In seeking a mentor, first, identify the specific reason for pursuing mentorship. Is the reason to help position you for a move to mid-level management in Human Resources, for example?

Second, research your career interest area for individuals who stand out as leaders in that field. Perhaps in your research you read an article about Michelle, an HR Director for a local college and president of the local Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) affiliate who has garnered a reputation of excellence that has enabled her to become a director relatively early in her career.

You identify with Michelle’s ability to move from entry-level to director quickly and you believe she is the type of professional from whom you could learn what it takes to move ahead.

Connect via LinkedIn, email or by phone and request an informational meeting

Third, you connect with Michelle via LinkedIn, email or by phone and request an informational meeting lasting between 30-45 minutes in which you ask her specific questions that you believe will help you understand her success pathway. Once the meeting has concluded, you thank Michelle for her graciousness in spending time with you and request the opportunity to contact her again.

In appreciation, you send a personalized thank you note with a gift card for a beverage at Starbucks.

Once you have gleaned the information shared by Michelle, contact her again to advise her that the information she shared has been useful for you and that you’d like to schedule another meeting with her. This time, you should discuss your specific need for guidance for advancement to the mid-level ranks and request that she offer one to three actions you should take toward your goal. She will be flattered that you have asked for her perspective!

Of course, a personalized note of thanks to Michelle would be welcomed.

After connecting with Michelle via email, telephone, letter and/or Zoom, you will have begun developing a collegial professional relationship. Be sure that when you see career items that you might be of interest to her email or mail them to her–for instance, an article describing new trends in higher education human resources. Michelle would be impressed that you recognize her ongoing need for cutting edge career information as well.

More often than not, your ongoing connection with Michelle may elicit more engagement from her. She may invite you to a SHRM meeting, lunch with other HR colleagues, or a reception at her university. By all means, please take advantage of these opportunities to strengthen your connection with Michelle and broaden your overall network of professionals. Even if Michelle does not invite you to professional events, take the initiative and ask her if you could join her to an event, such as the next SHRM meeting.

As you continue your relationship-building efforts with Michelle (around the 5th encounter), you could ask Michelle if she would like to serve as your professional mentor. Advise her that you are requesting quarterly telephone chats and occasional lunch meetings.

If she is receptive, remember to provide her with your resume as well as steps you have made toward your next career level.

Not every connection will evolve into a mentor-mentee relationship. And that’s ok. Some personalities just don’t click. Try not to take it to heart. Keep at it until you find a mentor who is compatible with you. The ASK will all be worth it!

Cathy Balfe

Cathy Balfe

MD and Career Coach, Career Coach Me

Write out what you hope to get out of the mentorship

Having a mentor can be a great way to accelerate your career – with the experience of having “been there, done that,” mentors can help less experienced individuals follow in their successful footsteps.

Here are some steps to finding and asking someone to be a mentor:

1) Sit down and write out what you hope to get out of the mentorship (e.g. clarity on progression opportunities within a company, advice on how to position yourself for a promotion or guidance on how to move into another department within the organization).

2) Identify a few people who you think might be a good mentor-mentee match for you.

3) Try and make the relationship reciprocal in some (even small) way. For example, you might cover the cost of the coffee or lunch when you meet them.

4) Explain what you hope to gain out of the meeting. I wouldn’t start off by asking them to be your mentor, but ask for 30 minutes of their time over coffee or lunch to…(learn more about career development pathways within the organization, to ask their advice on what to do to maximize your chances of upwards career progression within the organization or to hear how people typically transition between departments within the organization).

You can get a lot of useful advice from this initial meeting. If the meeting went well and you feel you both enjoyed it, you can follow the request up with another request to meet a few weeks later, and as your relationship builds there may be an opportune time to ask to formalize the relationship into a mentor-mentee one.

5) Typically, people that make good mentors are fairly established and senior and may not have much free time. When reaching out, be aware of this and try and acknowledge this in your request. Allow them a way to say no gracefully if they cannot find the time to help you (and move onto one of the other possible mentors in your list)..

6) If there are any commonalities (e.g., if you both studied at the same university or are from the same area), you can mention this in your email. Or if there are specific things you admire about their career or areas of interest you may have in common, you can also mention these.

Sample request:

Dear John,

My name is Cathy Balfe, and I am currently working as a Project Manager in Supply Chain Operations. I am reaching out as I have a very keen interest in the Procurement division, and would love the opportunity to find out more about the work being done and to explore opportunities to move into this area in the future. I read your recent briefing on “Procurement – the Global Outlook 2020” and found it very insightful, particularly given the current international trade environment. I appreciate you are probably very busy, but if you had 30 minutes to meet over a coffee, I would be very grateful for the opportunity to ask you some questions about the division. Perhaps we could even do a virtual coffee over zoom if it suited given the current restrictions!

I viewed your LinkedIn profile recently and noticed we both studied at Rutgers Business School – our times did not overlap but I’m sure we had many of the same lecturers!

If you have time to meet, please let me know when suits your schedule.

Best wishes,


Beth Cooper and Jemma Roche

Beth Cooper and Jemma Roche

Director of Marketing | Manager of the Internship Program, KNB Communications

Explain to them why you chose them to be your mentor

For many young entrepreneurs, succeeding in the field of their interest may be a hard one. The best way to navigate this is by finding a mentor. This is easier said than done. However, we have four tips on how to ask someone to be your mentor:

Schedule an initial meeting

Reach out to the person you want to be your mentor via email. In your initial request, ask the person for about an hour of their time so that you can take time to fully discuss what you will need from them.

Be clear and direct

In your initial request, ensure that you are clear about specifically what you would like advice on. Take some time to brainstorm questions. Explain to them why you chose them to be your mentor. You can write something like this:

“I admire the work you’ve done with [X]. I, too, have an interest in [category], and I am looking to strengthen my [insert skill].”

Describe the effort you are willing to put in

Create and share with your mentor your SMART goals. This will ensure that you are holding yourself accountable for learning and shows your mentor that you are serious about your goals.

Thank them for their time commitment

The people you are typically seeking to be your mentor are highly successful, and their time is limited. Outline the amount of time you would like to meet with them. Try to create a schedule of proposed times you guys will be meeting. They will most likely appreciate you considering their schedule. You can write something like this:

“Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I look forward to talking with you in the future.”

Paige Arnof-Fenn

Paige Arnof-Fenn

Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls

I started a global branding and marketing firm 18 years ago and have had great mentors and champions throughout my career.

In my corporate life, I had bosses, senior women, or alums from my alma maters who took me under their wings to help me advance and show me the ropes. Mentors come and go as your career evolves. Different people can play essential roles in your journey at different stages.

If you are a small business owner, mentors can also be invaluable sources of inspiration, advice, encouragement.

They can help you avoid rookie mistakes (with hiring, fundraising, etc.) when you are starting out. They can also give key introductions so that you avoid getting burned by service providers or potential investors who have mixed reputations.

I have seen several situations where a lot of time and money could have been wasted, but it was not. Expectations have to be managed; for me, I had mentors who I counted on for tough love and others to help me expand my footprint and elevate my profile in the community.

Mentors have different strengths and connections that can help.

I think everyone can benefit from active mentoring. The world is always changing, and we can all learn new things along the way.

Reverse mentoring is also essential when the mentee can help the mentor with pop culture trends, technology, etc. It is a two-way street.

In my experience, the best way to do it is organically by getting to know potential mentors over time through casual exchanges, lunches, coffees, e-mails, etc.

Once a history and relationship are there, only then share with them how valuable their advice and counsel has been to you. Tell them you have considered them a mentor and champion for a while and see how they react.

That usually leads to formalizing the relationship if all goes well.

Maki Moussavi, MS

Maki Moussavi

Transformational Coach | Speaker | Author

Throughout our professional careers, we form relationships with mentors and trusted advisors. If we’re lucky, we find the one or two people who become like co-creators on our professional journey, the go-to people that we want to consult with whenever faced with a challenge, fork in the road, or growth opportunity.

When we get results, we learn to trust our mentors and seek them out as needed. In many ways, this is healthy behavior. It shows that we have the self-awareness to know when we need help and to feel comfortable asking for it.

However, it’s important to be aware of when you allow the advice of others to trump your own intuition when it comes to the best way to address a situation.

As a professional, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that people who’ve had a certain level of success are “ahead” of you, that they’ve been at it longer; therefore they know better and whatever they tell you to do should be your next move.

It’s practically accepted as gospel in our professional culture that you should emulate others who’ve found success to create your own. But this ignores the reality that professional success doesn’t have a formula and that what works for someone else may not work for you.

Success comes to those who find what works for them. They play to their strengths, find people who complement the other areas and find a mode of operation that works for them personally.

You and your mentor(s) are not the same people. You don’t have the same strengths. Be open to trying someone else’s way but do so with the mindset that it’s an experiment. Try what they suggest, but be willing to make adjustments, or to follow the gut feeling that says “NO” if the advice truly doesn’t align with you.

Beyond professional success, remember that your mentor is a human being.

If you have prioritized personal development, make sure your mentor has done the same. It’s common for successful professionals to be driven by the need for validation and recognition from others, which can lead to an excessive focus on people-pleasing and “managing up” while completely ignoring what they want or need.

Their personal definition of success may be one-dimensional, with a focus on tangible achievements, such as title and salary, rather than holistic fulfillment that takes the personal and professional into consideration equally.

Do not settle for that one-dimensional view of success because “that’s just how it is.” You get to decide how it is for you.

Here are some things to watch for in a current/potential mentor:

Watch how they make decisions, and whether they tend to err on the side of following the rules rather than acting from authenticity.

Is fear a driving factor or a matter of fact? In other words, does your mentor acknowledge that there may be risk involved and encourage you to move forward thoughtfully, or is the feared outcome to be avoided at all costs? Is the focus on making sure higher-ups are pleased and hear what they want to hear, or on telling the truth in an empowered way with a plan for action even if the news is not good news?

Are you at the center of the advice given?

Does the mentor know your strengths well and advise based on what they know to be right about you, or do they advise you to emulate and do what they would do?

How do they respond when someone disagrees with them?

Is there dialog, or do they shut down? Do you feel comfortable expressing your own concerns and thoughts?

Are your best interests the priority?

The best mentors are those concerned with your well-being, regardless of whether that means you stay or leave your place of employment.

Most of all, trust yourself.

You know yourself better than anyone else does. Even with the best and most influential mentors around you, you are the ultimate decider of what needs to happen next. Remember that failure is an illusion. You can’t fail.

Every time something doesn’t go the way you expect, you learn and incorporate that information for your next move. A solid mentor will continue to hold the vision of your potential until you believe it.

Start with researching the person you’re seeking to be mentored by

A good question to ask (and form the basis of a mentoring relationship) are questions the other person is uniquely positioned to answer and the answer to the question is not found on Google.

Positioning yourself to ask for mentorship needs to start with researching the other person:

  • study their online bio and profiles
  • watch any video presentations they have posted
  • listen to podcast interviews with them
  • read any books, blogs, articles, or newsletters they have written

Once you’ve taken in that information, figure out what unanswered questions you have for the person you’re seeking to be mentored by. For example:

“I’ve just started my career ___________ and ultimately I’m interested in going into {insert details]. I see you made a similar career transition ten years into your career. What was the career trigger that leads you to make that move?”

“I’m a ________ student, and I’m still deciding what area of [insert details} I want to pursue. I see during your career you’ve done [insert information uncovered from your research on the person] work. I’m wondering how were you able to make those career moves within one company?”

“I just read your book, and I’m wondering what guidance you would have for networking internally when WFH is dominating and Zoom meetings are endless.Some things I’ve tried include ___________________ [insert details]. Your feedback on the actions I’m taking would be appreciated.”

The answer(s) you get will form the basis for your next step on the path to being mentored. You may get advice you wish to follow (if so, reaching back out to the person to let them know you applied their guidance successfully is the next step in your mentoring relationship).

Understand that some mentoring relationships will continue to grow as you follow-up with additional questions – and other mentoring relationships will be of a shorter duration, isolated to the question or challenge at hand.

Roll with it, discard preconceived notions that there is only one type of mentoring relationship and proactively continue to fuel your career mentoring needs with smart questions.

Matthew Lerner

Matthew Lerner

Startup Consultant | Investor | Managing Partner, Torchlight Consulting

When asking somebody to be your mentor, it’s important to recognize that it’s a pretty significant request, and there should at least be some indication that this person will be interested in doing so. If the mentor has spoken with you at length about work topics in the past, has spent time with you in a supportive role, and has direct experience in the areas you need the most help, those are all good indicators.

It’s also important to have a very clear ask about what you want their assistance with rather than simply asking, “would you be my mentor?”.

Here’s an example of how you can ask:


over the past (period of time), I’ve always left our conversations about work feeling both supported and inspired. The more we’ve spoken about (topics), the more clarity I’ve gotten, and I can feel myself developing into a more efficient and effective (leader/employee).

I know how busy your schedule is, but I was hoping to make our conversations more formalized and regular because of how helpful they are to me. Perhaps, we could set up a 60-minute session once per month to start. I will do all the organizational work, such as setting a clear agenda, sending out the invite, and any necessary follow-ups. Ideally, I’d want to focus on {topic 1 and topic 2} as I know this is where you have the most applicable experience and insight.

Let me know if you are open to this, and I hope you know how much I value your time and input. Looking forward to hearing back from you.

Jann E. Freed, Ph.D.

Jann Freed

Leadership Development and Change Management Consultant | Author, Leading With Wisdom: Sage Advice from 100 Experts

Don’t ask someone to be your mentor

Focus on what’s in it for them to mentor you. Since mentoring is a relationship, start by building a relationship. The best relationships (similar to friendships) emerge and are more organic. When we try to force these relationships or assign them, they often don’t work.

To find a mentor, start by initiating conversations and arranging for these conversations to emerge. For example, seek out role models in the workplace and ask if you can treat them to a coffee date or lunch. Conversations usually lead to relationships, and relationships tend to build a sense of community.

The best way to learn from others is to ask questions and seek their advice

Most people enjoy sharing what they have learned from their work and life experiences. Giving people the chance to share their wisdom can be perceived as a compliment to them. In return, the mentee learns a great deal. The strongest mentor relationships can evolve into the mentor, becoming a sponsor.

These are people who may invest in the mentee’s career and even use their social capital to help advance the mentee’s career.

Don’t ask someone to be your mentor. Be a person in whom others want to invest their time and energy because you are interested in them and their lives.

Carla Howard

Carla Howard

Owner, The Professional Woman’s Mentor

The first step is to choose the right person to be your mentor

Be very thoughtful about what you want to learn through the relationship, and look for people with expertise in that area. I find that people who feel stuck will sometimes reach out to an executive with a request for them to be a mentor with no idea of what they want to accomplish.

This puts the executive in a difficult position because they may not be the best person to help the mentee move forward.

The best approach is to begin by building a relationship

This is the best way to ask someone you work with to be your mentor. I recommend letting your target mentor know what you admire about them or want to learn more about and ask if they would be willing to meet you for coffee before work or go to lunch.

Take that time to get to know more about them, share what you’re struggling with, and then listen carefully to their advice.

At the end of your time together, let your potential mentor know how much you appreciate their time and tell him/her what actions you will take based on their recommendations. Then, ask if he/she would be willing to meet in a few weeks so that you can share your progress.

This gives both the mentor and the mentee time to build a relationship. They can decide if there is value in meeting regularly.

If you find after 2 or 3 meetings that this feels like the mentor relationship that you are looking for, your mentor is likely feeling the same way.

You can formalize your relationship by simply asking, “Would you be open to continuing our discussions every month?”.

I’ve seen far too many professionals get stuck in trying to figure out how to ask someone to be their mentor. Instead, focus on building a relationship, taking action on recommendations, and finding ways you can add value to your mentor.

This approach will take the pressure off both of you and begin a relationship that will far outlast those formed in formal corporate mentoring programs.

Dorota Lysienia

Dorota Lysienia

Community Manager, LiveCareer

One of the common mistakes people make when asking others to be their mentors is being unclear about their expectations.

Mentors are often busy people who don’t want to make promises they can’t keep. They want to know if that’s the commitment they can fit into their schedules. As a mentee, you also don’t want a mentor that doesn’t have time and energy to work with you.

Be specific in your mentoring request and state clearly how you picture your collaboration. Think of your mentoring goals and how your potential mentor could help you achieve them. Make sure to communicate how often and for how long you would like to meet. In the past, I recommended meeting in person. In the current situation, you increase your chances of getting a “yes” by offering video calls.

Here is an example of how you can structure your email to someone you already know or have interacted with:

Hello [contact name],

It was a pleasure talking to you during [name of the event]. I learned interesting things about [conversation’s topic] and have a lot of respect for how you developed your career. As I currently look for professional guidance on [your mentoring goal], you were the first person that came to my mind.

I wondered if we could hop on a call and discuss if being my mentor is something you would be interested in.

As a part of our mentoring relationship, I propose to have a 60-minute Zoom call once a month to discuss your ideas regarding my career development and learning opportunities in [industry]. I would create a meeting agenda, make a list of any to-do items that result from our conversation, complete them during the next month, and report on my progress during our next session.

I realize that you might be too busy for this kind of commitment and understand if you decide to say no. In that case, keep up the great work, and I look forward to speaking with you again in the future.

Best regards
[your name]

Holly Knoll

Holly Knoll

Business Coach and Creator, The Consultant Code

I’ve been part of organizations with forced mentoring, and it always felt so awkward asking someone to be my mentor formally. That said, I truly do value mentoring; however, I believe mentorships need to happen naturally and be a good fit for both parties.

Therefore, I do not encourage my clients or reports to ask someone to be their mentor outrightly.

Instead I would advise them to thoughtfully think of someone they’d like to get to know better by considering the following:

  • Are there key traits about this person that you admire or would like to learn how to do yourself?
  • Is this person in a place in their life or career that you currently aspire to be?
  • Is there something about this person that makes them different from you, which could help you think out of your comfort zone?
  • If you’ve met this person before, does something just “click” when you communicate?

Finally, is there something you could, in turn, help your desired mentor with?

Mutually beneficial relationships are even better!

With these points in mind, I would coach my clients to reach out to a person they admire for a casual coffee. Since folks are busy, it’s always great for the mentee to offer in return (sharing an article, doing a little research on a recent accomplishment of the person, etc.).

Nina Krol

Nina Krol

Outreach Manager at Zety

Choose wisely, don’t waste anyone’s time, and have a solid plan

It’s okay to learn from your own mistakes; that’s how we grow. But how about learning from the experience and mistakes of others? Getting a mentor is like getting a shortcut through a difficult path and learning from someone who’s “been there and done that.”

There are a few rules to asking somebody to be your mentor: choose wisely, don’t waste anyone’s time, and have a solid plan. Remember: a mentor doesn’t need you. So you need to make sure you’re doing your absolute best to use this opportunity to the fullest.


“Hi Mark,

As you know, I’ve always had great respect for the work you have done and the way you built a successful business. I always learn so much from every conversation we have, and I would like to ask you for your guidance and advice in the next steps of running my own company.

I feel I need some mentoring to really move forward. I was hoping that we might meet for coffee for about 2 hours every month to discuss things I could do to jumpstart my company.

I will organize our meeting’s agenda and commit fully to implementing your advice, follow up on the items discussed, and report back on my progress. I am hoping to become a successful entrepreneur in the near future and return a favor in any way possible.

I realize that your schedule is an exceptionally busy one, and taking on another commitment might be challenging for you. I can only assure you that I will use this opportunity to the fullest and appreciate every piece of advice from you.

Thank you in advance for considering this request.”

Phyllis Weiss Haserot

Phyllis Weiss Haserot

President, Practice Development Counsel | Consultant | Speaker | Author, You Can’t Google It!

If you are nervous about asking someone to be your mentor, don’t do it.

Do this instead:

Think what specifically you would like a mentor to do for you

Make sure to get this clear in your mind. Instead of asking right out front for the person to play a mentor role, start by asking advice for one specific thing. Then ask how you can be of help to the individual. Having researched this person before approaching them suggests some ways you might be able to be helpful.

With this preparation and initial approach, you can start a relationship that you can grow into a mentorship if the chemistry turns out right.

This approach usually works better than appearing to be asking for a lot of time from a mentor before a relationship is started. It often works better than formally matched mentoring programs sponsored by an employer.

Elizabeth Harrin, FAPM

Elizabeth Harrin

Mentor and Trainer, Rebel’s Guide to Project Management

Don’t put them on the spot by asking them to commit (or decline) straight away

It’s important to be specific about what you want from a mentoring relationship when you ask someone to fulfill that role for you and to ask at an appropriate time. The first time I asked someone to be my mentor, I was really nervous, and I just blurted it out: “Will you be my mentor?”

We were at a work social event; she was my ex-manager. She laughed and said, “Of course!” But in practice, we had one phone call, and that was it – not the kind of support I was looking for. I don’t think either of us realized what kind of commitment we were agreeing to.

I’ve had more successful mentoring relationships since then, and I mentor others. What works when you are going into those arrangements is to be brutally honest about the support you want. Is it ad hoc phone calls whenever you have a problem? Is it formal structured monthly one-on-ones? If you don’t know, then you aren’t ready to ask.

Also, think about when you are going to make the ask – in a bar is really not the best choice!

Find a time when you’ve got nothing to rush off for, and neither have they so that probably means booking time in their calendar so you can have a relaxed, informal discussion about what you are looking for in a mentor and why you think they are a good fit for you.

Don’t put them on the spot by asking them to commit (or decline) straight away. Lay it out there and let them have the time to reflect on whether they can offer you that time and support. Mentoring is a great opportunity for the mentor as well, so they will undoubtedly get a lot out of being there for you. However, it is a commitment.

Being clear will help you both be sure about what the commitment is going to take, so don’t take it personally if the person you approached says no. They may not have the time to support you effectively, and it’s far better to realize that now than later, when they don’t return your calls.

Matt Edstrom

Matt Edstrom

Expert, Finance and Professional and Personal Development | CMO, GoodLife Home Loans

From what I’ve been able to gather throughout my life, mentorships are the types of relationships to form somewhat naturally.

People naturally gravitate towards certain people and feel a stronger need to guide some more than others. When you’re new into the workforce or new to an industry, a mentor can be an incredibly valuable resource when it comes to your career advancement and attaining knowledge. You don’t have to tip-toe when you feel particularly inspired by somebody.

Reach out to them

Let them know how much you value their career path and what they have to say, and if they wouldn’t mind setting aside some free time to teach you the ropes and help you smoothly transition into a particular role.

It might sound strange if you just went up to somebody and asked them to be your mentor, but it still should be encouraged to let those you admire know that you do and what you hope to get an opportunity to learn from them.

A good mentor will recognize it sometimes without even being asked or told that their advice is highly valued and respected. There isn’t any particular etiquette on whether the mentor should reach out to the mentee or vice versa.

Krunal Rindani

Krunal Rindani

Entrepreneur | Strategic Advisor | Trainer

Choose the right person

Just because someone is successful doesn’t mean you’d benefit from their mentorship and guidance. The thing is, everyone has had different circumstances and backgrounds. If you’re into marketing and ask a successful full-stack developer to mentor you, then it makes little to no sense.

On the face of it, they might have achieved success, but it’s important to define:

  • Is their work relevant to you?
  • Can you relate to their work or the struggles they’ve faced?
  • Do you look up to them, or do you look up to their success?

Follow their work

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Follow someone’s work before you pop the question. Make it known that you know every piece of public info about them, and you’ve studied them well.

This shows that you’re serious and that you are genuinely inspired or impacted by their work. It also shows to the mentor that you are worth investing their time.

Build a relationship

Have a genuine discussion with them. A common mistake people make is to flaunt what they already know. This comes off as too boastful. Instead, make it known that you have some knowledge or interest in the subject area without really going overboard.

Help them out

After having a genuine discussion, express your interest in working with them. Let them know that you just want to learn and aren’t really looking for quick cash here, but instead, you just want an opportunity to learn from them and work with them. You can’t force them to let you work with them, but you can continue providing value. If they are not too keen, help them out with some other smaller thing first.

Pop the question

Think of this as dating. You wouldn’t propose to someone on the very first date, would you? And even if you would, the outcome is quite likely going to be unfavorable. Similarly, get a feel of the person you want to be mentored by.

Understand them and see if you will be a good fit. If it’s a good fit, you can be completely honest. Once the bond is formed, it’s unlikely that they will say no directly. Let them know that you are very inspired by them and hope to be mentored by them.

It’s important not to overcomplicate it. Understand that the person you want to be mentored by is just as human as you are. Like most things, once you develop a relationship with them, it will be easier than you’d think. It’s essential to be persistent without being forceful. They need to know you aren’t wasting their time.

Another important thing: stay away from some of the fake gurus we often see. You know, those who offer paid mentorships. There’s nothing wrong with paying for mentoring, but only if the person who’ll be mentoring you has a proven track record.

A lot of people nowadays simply recycle knowledge and charge thousands of dollars for that. Avoid that!

Dr. Luz Claudio

Dr. Luz Claudio

Tenured Professor of Environmental Medicine and Public Health | Author, How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide

Be prepared to answer some questions

I’ve had students ask me to be their mentor just because someone else told them that it would be a good idea. Whether the person who recommended me was another student or even the person’s academic advisor, the potential mentee must be prepared to answer the question – Why?

Your answer should include why you are seeking a mentor at this time? Are you moving to a different department and need advice about that? Is there a particular reason why you are seeking me specifically as a mentor?

Answering the question -Why?- will help clarify the goals of the mentorship.

Know what kind of advice you are looking for

Do you need advice on career advancement? Are you looking for someone to help you with a particular research methodology? Are you looking for someone to take a look at your resume to see if you are ready for a promotion?

The more specific you can be in the “What?” the more prepared you will be to know whether you are getting what you need from the mentoring relationship.

Think of how the mentoring relationship will progress

Will you meet in person, by phone, online? Will you check-in once a month or as needed? Will you meet at the office, for a coffee? The How of the mentoring process should be negotiated and should be open to change depending on need.

However, some programs require that students meet with their mentors regularly; therefore, I need to know that in advance, to determine whether I can serve the mentee in the way they need.

Joseph Hoelscher

Joseph Hoelscher

Managing Attorney, Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda PLLC

Identify your mentorship needs

You may want someone close to you who can help advance your career directly, or you may need someone outside your organization who you can speak to freely. Mentors need to have the time and willingness to share their it, so look for mentors who have helped others and who are available to you.

My first mentor was too busy for me, even though he volunteered for a formal program, so it didn’t matter that he was hugely influential in my field. Some well-established mentors may be better for a mid-career professional, while someone who can better relate to what it feels like to be starting out may be better for a new professional.

Find a likely candidate

Formal mentorship groups can be great, but work with a limited pool and may assign mentors/mentees based on convenience. So, identifying senior members of your profession or organization with common interests is a better idea.

Ideally, you’ll run into these folks organically, but if you can’t, then joining organizations involving shared interests is an excellent way to engineer an introduction.

Let the prospective mentor talk so you can find out more about them and see if they meet your needs.

Ask openly

I’ve been successful by just asking for what I need. “I need advice on these specific things. You seem to know more than I do. Would you be willing to meet occasionally so I can talk to someone who will give me good advice?”

If they say no, don’t be offended, follow up by asking if they know anyone else or if they can point you in the right direction.

Frederick Penney

Frederick Penney

Managing Attorney, Penney & Associates

Though this sounds like a simple question, it is not.

It is very important to remember that most individuals who are successful in business and life have quite a few people asking them to be a mentor. How do you stand out from the rest?

Reiterate that it will not take a lot of their time

Make sure that you tell this to the potential mentor. They do not have the time to walk you through every business decision, and never assume you can monopolize what time they do have.

Do not ask them to teach you “their secrets”

Let them voluntarily teach you what they feel is important. Remember that you’ve asked them to teach what they think is important, not what YOU think is important.

Always thank them in simple ways

Buy them a card, take them to lunch, and pay yourself.

Finally, remember them and help them with their business

Remember them for mentoring you and help them if you can by referring their business. These mentors will see that you genuinely appreciated their help and will more than likely return the favors. I owe much of my success to good mentors.

Melanie Cook

Melanie Cook

CEO, Suite Conversation

Asking someone to be a mentor is a daunting task for many, but five basics steps can make it easier.

Through the course of my 22-year career, I had to seek mentorship and coach others to do the same. Attaining mentorship allowed me to get my first leadership position at 18, advance before the end of my probationary period, write my own checks, and it has ensured continuous growth.

In addition, my clients have been able to increase their salaries, gain new opportunities, and advance in business.

These are the five basic principles that lead to mentor success:

Do your homework

Before you ask someone to be a mentor, make sure you’re clear about who they are and what they do. Also, specifically what you are looking to gain from their mentorship.

Schedule a meeting

Be direct and ask for a 15-minute meeting to discuss how you can add value to their department, objectives, and initiatives in exchange for the opportunity to mentored.

Make it personal

In two minutes or less, explain what attributes made you seek them as a mentor, include personality traits, accomplishments, how you can relate, as well as what this mentorship means to your life or career. Be honest, upfront, and transparent.

Outline a plan

Be ready to lay out your expectations, which includes how often you expect to meet, the areas of focus, and where the mentorship will take place.

Be flexible

If your proposed plan fails, listen to see where you can make adjustments to make the mentorship work for both of you. How can you lighten their load? Can you meet via Skype versus in-person? Are they open to once a quarter versus once per month?

Bonus: Always make sure you follow-up with a thank you email, whether they agree to your proposal or not.

Ashlyn Carter

Ashlyn Carter

Founder, Ashlyn Writes

The best advice I got on seeking a mentor? Don’t ask them to be your mentor.

Stay with me! It sounds backwards, but I’ve actually developed my favorite mentor-mentee relationships with people I’ve never even had that awkward conversation with.

It simply unfolded naturally. True, if asked who my mentors are, I’d name them. And if they were asked about our relationship, they’d probably agree, “Yes, she’s sort of a mentee or little sister to me,” but there’s not a black-and-white mentor/mentee label on it.

I have business coaches I’d consider a “mentor,” too, but I’m paying them. 🙂

The dear, unpaid relationships where I assume the subordinate role and come in with a teachable spirit have been so life-giving. This mindset shift freed me up to quit stressing that I don’t “have a mentor yet” and helped me realize I absolutely do.

(And in reverse, the women I consider my mentees have never outright asked me to coach them in business—we naturally struck up the relationship!)

I also like the idea of considering people are mentors whom you’ve never met.

Countless speakers, authors—many not still alive!—and thinkers have influenced me personally and professionally, pushed me to question, and sharpened my mind. From C.S. Lewis to modern writers like Lara Casey, trusted authors constantly advise me.

David LaVine

David LaVine

Marketing Consultant and Founder, RocLogic Marketing

Asking someone to be your mentor mostly comes down to setting expectations.

Relieve some pressure

Don’t make the request more formal than it needs to be. For some people, if you ask them to be your mentor, it can sound like a massive responsibility, when it may not be the case. Let them know that you’ll have several mentors.

You’ll want more than one because each person will offer a different perspective, and no single person will know about all the topics you’re interested in covering. That’ll relieve some of the pressure from the mentor.

Scope it for them

Scope your request so that they understand how much you’re asking of them. Let them know if you just want to pick their brain every couple/few months for 15 minutes or if you’re asking for something more significant like an hour-long get together every couple weeks.

That’s a big difference in time committed. You should let them know the sorts of topics that you’re interested in chatting about. Maybe you think they know more about some topics than they do. Better to get aligned upfront.

Give back, don’t just take

Finally, think about what value you can offer to the mentor. You probably won’t be able to offer up as much value as they can to you, but you should try to reciprocate at some level. Make it a two-way street.

Dave Lavinsky

Dave Lavinsky

Co-founder & President, Growthink

With regards to how to ask someone to be your mentor:

You should slightly stroke their ego and explain what they’ve accomplished that makes you want them as a mentor. You should also explain to them what your goals are.

Here’s an example:

It would be a real honor to have you as a mentor; your experience growing Acme Corp. from $0 to $10 million is super impressive and tells me you have great insight that could help me as I try to improve my company

Related: 22 Reasons Why Goal Setting is Important for Success

While the preferred way to do this is in-person, we have done this via email many times.

Jonathan Chan

Jonathan Chan

Head of Marketing, Insane Growth

I’ve had the luck to be mentored by some of the best entrepreneurs in the world.

When it comes to asking someone to be your mentor, the number one rule is to make sure that you don’t ask someone, “will you be my mentor?”

Asking someone directly to be your mentor is not only unfair to the person because it puts them in a position where they might not even want to be in, but it also makes you come off as someone who is only looking to take.

In my experience, the best way to have someone you admire become a mentor figure is to ask them if they have some time to talk with you about your personal development, or on a topic that you know that they’re interested in.

Kevin D. Phillips

Kevin D. Phillips

Consultant | Coach | Adviser | Trainer

Plan ahead

Mentors are most effective when their giftedness aligns with a specific growth area. It helps you identify the right mentors, create focus, and encourage the right outcomes. This clarity creates a key advantage: The prospective mentor gains insight into how they can help and a strong sense you won’t waste their time, increasing the odds they will commit.

Don’t hesitate to ask

Be humble. Explain how they fit into your growth plan. Show your determination and organization. Be flexible. Commit to fit around their schedule, and promise you will always show up prepared, having done your homework. Assure them your motives are to grow, and that you will not use their name to gain an advantage. Show your appreciation.

Stay committed

Once your mentorship begins, be respectful. Be on time and don’t cancel at the last minute. Show up prepared. You do the hard work and be easy to mentor. Summarize the work you’ve done since the previous session and arrive with specific questions or areas where you need help. Be flexible enough to adjust the approach if they suggest it. Show appreciation for their time and investment in you.

Jake Hay

Jake Hay

Partner and Head of Development, PopShorts

Scheduling an initial conversation

Once you’ve thought of someone you want to ask to be your mentor, you begin by scheduling an initial conversation. It can merely be a one-hour meeting over coffee where you discuss your goals and ask them any questions you might have.

Clearly describe the guidance you are looking for and for what purpose

This requires a lot of thought to articulate. You need to confirm your willingness to do your part and follow through because it’s frustrating to mentor someone who doesn’t do the necessary steps to take advantage of the advice. You must commit the time, energy, and effort to make the most of their time.

Lastly, acknowledge and respect your mentor’s time

It means understanding if they are busy. Make it known that you appreciate their consideration of your request even if they decline it.

Kevin Lockett

Kevin Lockett

Author, The Digital Handbook 2020

The best way to ask someone to be your mentor is just to ask

Now, this doesn’t mean that Warren Buffet will become your mentor, but if you find someone locally whom you respect, send a nice email or tweet and let them know you just read an article about them and you would like to buy them a cup of coffee and pick their brain about their career.

Related: How to Introduce Yourself in an Email

People generally like talking about themselves, and you might be surprised who will say yes to your offer for coffee. This doesn’t mean they are now officially your mentor, but you are building a rapport that could lead to that direction.

Mack Dudayev

Mack Dudayev

Founder, InsureChance Inc.

From my experience, you don’t ask for mentorship; the relationship usually falls into place.

With that being said, the best way to go about getting a mentor is by opening a dialogue. Pick out an individual who you think would make a great mentor to you and simply ask him or her for advice. Most successful veterans are more than glad to help someone who wants to grow.

If the information they provided was valuable, be sure to inform and thank them. Repeat this a few times, and you’ll create a mentor-mentee bond in no time. Looking back at a few of my mentors, I can attest that it is precisely how those relationships started.

Laura Francis

Laura Francis

Chief Knowledge Officer, River

Most people choose a mentor because they admire something about that person.

When asking someone to be your mentor, be honest and specific about why you are asking them in particular and explain what you hope to get out of the relationship.

For example, you could tell them that you really admire how they handle managing up and holding people accountable (such as a direct supervisor).

You could explain that you struggle with this skill and want to improve it and that you hope that they could share some tips and insights that could help you develop this skill.

In the end, you want to be specific about what you want from them so that they can assess the request and determine if they can help or not.

Adam Cole

Adam Cole

Jazz Musician | Author, Motherless Child

It’s very easy to pick someone to be your mentor. All you have to do is find someone that is doing what you want to do. The problem is they may not want to be a mentor, and may not be a good mentor.

So the first question you should ask is, “Do you think you’d be a good mentor for me?”

That asks both “Do you want to mentor me” AND “Do you think you’d be any good at it.” Both have to be true for the relationship to work.

It’s a little like asking someone for a recommendation. You ask them first if they would be able to give you a good one before you ask for the advice itself. Otherwise, you might not get what you thought you’d be getting.

Jarie Bolander

Jarie Bolander

Co-founder & COO, Lab Sensor Solutions

What I have appreciated when being asked to be a mentor and what I do when I’m looking for a mentor is to get introduced by a trusted friend that wants us to have coffee and get to know each other.

I have found that starting off as acquaintances and having the mentor/mentee relationship develop naturally leads to the best ones. In fact, I don’t think I have ever formally asked someone to be a mentor.

Instead, I would just ask for advice when it was appropriate, all while offering to help them if I could. More often than not, I can, and it makes the relationship even better.

Danny Ray

Danny Ray

Founder, PinnacleQuote

You just have to ask

Not asking is part of the problem. If you have a passion for being successful and you see someone that has been successful, you owe it to yourself to ask.

The best way to ask, “I really admire what you do and I would like to emulate your success, how can I be of assistance to you for you to be willing to assist me?”

Emily Howe

Emily Howe

Corporate Gender Strategist | Advisor, Portola Advisors

The best mentors are always overbooked with ambitious mentees – especially if you want one who is a woman who is in a position of power (which you should – if you want a corner office one day).

Instead of scaring off a busy executive with a big, open-ended ask,”will you be my mentor?” women have more luck scoping a narrow ask, as in, “would you mind sponsoring my company initiative – I’ll probably need 30m of your time upfront and then a monthly 15m status check-in” or “I’m looking for advice on X; would you mind sharing what you wish you’d known at my career level?”

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Mentorship, and Why Is It Important?

Mentorship is a relationship between two people in which one person (the mentor) provides guidance, advises, and supports the other person (the mentee).

Mentorship can be mutually beneficial because the mentor gets a sense of fulfillment and purpose from helping someone grow. At the same time, the mentee benefits from the mentor’s experience and knowledge.

Here are some of the key benefits of mentorship:

Career advancement: A mentor can guide you in navigating the job market and achieving your career goals.

Skill development: A mentor can help you identify areas you need to improve and provide resources and opportunities to develop those skills.

Networking: A mentor can introduce you to their own network, potentially opening doors to new job opportunities or collaborations.

Personal growth: A mentor can give you an outside perspective on your personal and professional life, help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and encourage you to grow in areas you lack.

What Resources or Programs Are Available for Mentoring in the Professional World?

There are many resources and programs for mentoring in the professional world, such as:

Professional organizations: Many professional organizations, such as industry associations or trade groups, offer mentoring programs for members.

Companies: Some companies have internal mentoring programs in which their employees can participate.

Online platforms: Online mentorship platforms connect mentors and mentees, such as Mentorloop or Bidirectional Mentorship.

Conferences and workshops: Conferences and workshops that focus on professional development or personal growth often include opportunities for mentorship and networking.

By exploring these resources and programs, you can find a mentoring opportunity that fits your needs and helps you achieve your professional goals.

What Should I Bring to My Mentor-Mentee Meetings?

Being prepared to get the most out of your mentor-mentee meetings is important. Here are some things you should bring to your meetings:

Goals and updates: Bring an update on your progress toward your goals and ask your mentor for advice on continuing to grow and develop in your field.

Questions: Prepare a list of questions to ask your mentor and bring any materials or resources to help you discuss these questions effectively.

Gratitude: Express gratitude for your mentor’s time and support, and let them know how much you value their guidance and advice.

You can establish a strong and productive mentoring relationship by expressing gratitude, asking thoughtful questions, and providing updates on your progress.

How Long Should a Mentoring Relationship Last?

The length of a mentoring relationship can vary depending on the goals and needs of the mentor and mentee. Some mentoring relationships may last only a few months, while others can last several years.

It’s important to periodically review the progress and effectiveness of the mentorship and determine if it’s still meeting the needs of both parties.

It’s also possible for a mentoring relationship to come to a natural end when the mentee has achieved their goals or feels they no longer need the support and guidance of their mentor.

How Can I Maintain My Mentoring Relationship Even if I Change Jobs or Industries?

Mentoring relationships can be a valuable source of support and guidance even if you change jobs or industries. Here are some ways you can maintain your mentoring relationship:

Keep in touch: Check in with your mentor regularly, even if you’re not seeking their advice at the moment.

Offer support: If your mentor is facing challenges or opportunities in their own career, offer your support and assistance when you can.

Stay connected: Consider connecting on professional networking platforms such as LinkedIn to stay updated on each other’s careers and developments.

By maintaining your mentoring relationship, you can continue receiving valuable advice and guidance and supporting your mentor on their career path.

What Are Common Challenges in Mentoring Relationships, and How Can They Be Overcome?

Mentoring relationships can be challenging, but open and honest communication can overcome these challenges. Here are some common challenges in mentoring relationships:

Time constraints: The mentor and mentee have busy schedules and may struggle to meet regularly.

Different goals: The mentor and mentee may have different goals and priorities, leading to disagreements and frustration.

Power dynamic: The relationship between mentor and mentee may be hierarchical, with the mentor having more power and influence.

Miscommunication: Mentor and mentee may have different communication styles, which can lead to misunderstandings.

To overcome these challenges, it’s important to:

Establish clear expectations: Discuss your goals and expectations for the mentoring relationship in advance and regularly re-evaluate to ensure you’re both on the same page.

Communicate openly: Maintain open and honest communication and address any challenges or concerns as they arise.

Seek feedback: Seek feedback from your mentor regularly and be open to constructive criticism.

Be respectful: Always respect each other’s time and opinions and understand that disagreements are a natural part of any relationship.

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