How to Ask for Mentorship: A Step-by-Step Guide
Published on April 2, 2021
- Mentors can help college students define their career goals and get experience.
- Figure out what you hope to gain from the experience before asking for mentorship.
- Even if the person says no, they can still be a valuable connection in your network.
Mentors offer college students critical support and guidance in all aspects of their lives, from coursework and classes to jobs and extracurriculars. But even if you already know the benefits of having a mentor, actually asking someone to become your mentor can feel daunting. Whom should you ask, and how?
In this step-by-step guide, we go over how to ask for mentorship and identify potential mentors.
How to Ask for Mentorship in 4 Easy Steps
Step 1: Identify Possible Mentors
Consider different types of mentoring relationships, from those that provide career advice and recommendations to those that focus on general encouragement and keeping you grounded. You may even already have someone in mind. If not, though, the first step is to identify one or more people who could work well in this role.
List of Potential Mentors
Try to think of people who already know you and who are familiar with your academic and professional goals. Ideally, they'll also have the expertise you're searching for. Has anyone in your professional network benefited from having a mentor? Perhaps they themselves are now ready to become mentors. Make sure, too, that anyone you're considering has ample time to devote to mentoring.
Your college's alumni network can be a helpful resource to start with.
Step 2: Prepare for the Conversation
Next, consider your expectations for having a mentor. It's best to think of mentorship as a professional relationship with a level of formality or structure. Once you've done this, you can work on developing a proposal to present to possible mentors in a conversation that invites them to consider the opportunity.
Your proposal to your potential mentor might address the following:
How will you two connect — online, in person, or through a combination of methods? Create a plan that includes the tools you'd use and how often you'd like to communicate, whether that's through phone calls, email, Zoom, or face-to-face meetings.
What kind of support are you looking for? Networking, career and school advice, job shadowing, collaborative projects, promotion, career transition, and resource recommendations are just some of the potential outcomes. Decide what your top priorities are, but know that these might change over time.
Acknowledge your role as a mentee. Explain that you're not only interested in receiving advice but also ready to do the necessary work. Being mentored isn't a passive experience. Connect your goals to the actions you're prepared to take under a mentor's guidance.
Step 3: Make the Ask
You've probably heard the saying, "You don't get what you don't ask for." While some people may volunteer to serve as mentors, you'll likely need to take the initiative and ask your chosen person directly to be your mentor. Once you've identified possible mentors and created a proposal based on your needs and goals, it's time to have the conversation.
If you can meet with your prospective mentor in person, set up an appointment to talk. Cafes are great places to get to know someone and ask for mentorship. If you can't meet face to face, consider using Zoom or another video conferencing platform.
If a live conversation just isn't possible, send your request over email or in a LinkedIn message (assuming that's how you normally correspond with your prospective mentor).
Examples of Asking for Mentorship
Step 4: Show Gratitude
Whether your prospective mentor's answer is yes or no, be sure to thank them for considering your request and taking the time to meet with you. Remember that it's not uncommon for busy professionals to decline becoming mentors.What's more, not agreeing to be a mentor doesn't mean they're not interested in staying within your network and offering help when they're available. You can continue to learn from your connection, and who knows — they may even be able to refer you to someone who is ready and willing to take on the role of mentor.
Feature Image: kate_sept2004 / E+ / Getty Images