How to Find a Tech Mentor
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- Tech mentors can provide encouragement, support, job leads, and network connections.
- College students can find mentors through tech groups, online communities, and hackathons.
- A good tech mentor can help a mentee build technical knowledge and skills.
- Mentees are five times more likely to get promoted, according to a report.
Why get a tech mentor? For starters, mentees often see salary increases and get promoted after their mentorships. According to Gartner's five-year study of 1,000 employees, some 25% of employees who participated in a mentoring program saw a pay increase.
Another study by Sun Microsystems also found that employers promoted mentees five times more. Online communities, networking events, professional organizations, and hackathons offer a chance to find a tech mentor.
Continue reading to learn how to ask someone to be your tech mentor and find out what it can do for your career.
What Is a Tech Mentor?
As people who know the industry, tech mentors can provide advice about professional and personal matters, as well as emotional support. Many have prominent positions in tech, insider knowledge, and the influence to provide connections and introductions to hiring managers.
Mentees can seek out mentors at any stage in their careers, but they usually do as they're starting out. Even before someone officially enters the industry, a tech mentor can help them pick the right courses and specialty areas, curate their portfolio, and apply to the right jobs.
A tech mentor answers questions mentees may not want to ask their co-workers. And they provide encouragement to help mentees realize their personal and professional goals. A tech mentorship usually costs nothing, but it may lead to a lifelong connection — and greater career prospects.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Tech Mentor?
Good tech mentors can give mentees the confidence to make important decisions about their career. They also provide support for those tough decisions such as how to snag a tech job and negotiate a higher salary.
Helps You Make Professional Decisions
Making the leap from coding school or college into the workforce can feel overwhelming. Mentors have been there before and can offer advice about how to tweak a resume or cover letter.
Throughout your career, mentors offer support that can give you the confidence to ask for a promotion, grow as a professional, or switch industries.
Gives You Insights Into the Tech Field
Tech mentors draw on their experience to provide valuable insights about the tech field. They have spent years in the industry and have forged connections. They even have made mistakes that you can learn from.
Ask them questions about how to advance in tech and what fields offer the most promise. A mentor may even have insights about where you work or the tech companies with the best workplace dynamics.
Provides Support and Helps You Improve
Sometimes in your career, you need an objective person, a knowledgeable person, to talk about issues or get answers to your questions. A tech mentor, unlike a co-worker or friend, offers an objective point of view.
Best of all, tech mentors understand your industry. Tech mentors can point you in the right direction and help you improve your skill set. This may help make you happier in your career.
Helps Expand Your Professional Network
Mentors have been in tech longer than you and have built a network of peers and senior professionals. They can introduce you to other people in tech — whether in person or virtually — such as potential employers or even people who could become friends.
Tech mentors may also provide the encouragement you need to go to networking events and continue your education.
7 Ways to Find a Tech Mentor
Tech newbies find mentors through many avenues. You may connect with a tech mentor after a cold email or at a social event. Other ways to find a tech mentor include:
Join Tech Groups and Communities
Joining professional tech groups or communities, such as Designers + Geeks or the NY Tech Alliance, may help you expand your network, find educational opportunities, and get support from a tech mentor. Groups and communities host local and virtual meetups where you can make connections in your field.
Tech companies host hackathon events to get programmers, software developers, web designers, and product managers to develop solutions to a problem. The event may happen in person or online. Either way, organizers generally place tech professionals in different teams to collaborate. Hackathons also include networking with recruiters on the lookout for talent.
Attend Professional Networking Events
Professional tech organizations host free and paid meetups, seminars, and networking events in your local area or virtually.
Join an Online Tech Platform
By joining a tech platform, you can team up with senior product managers, software engineers, and product designers who want to see you succeed. Platforms such as Merit let users ask questions and have conversations with multiple mentors.
Hexagon offers mentorships for women and nonbinary people who work in UX design, while Mentors in Tech, or MinT, provides one-year mentorships to graduates from "overlooked" colleges.
Build Connections on Social Media
Discord, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Slack have community groups for tech professionals from specific backgrounds. Women, LGBTQ+ employees, and people from underrepresented backgrounds can find tech communities online.
Tech community groups include: Blacks in Tech, Tech Sisters, Out in Tech, Virtual Coffee, and Women Know Tech.
Network Within Your Own Workplace
Your mentor could be a current supervisor or senior worker right in your own office. If you work in tech, you can leverage your position to talk to senior employees in the kitchen, breakroom, or at the next social function.
Finding a mentor at work can lessen the intimidation of approaching someone you do not know.
Attend Tech Events and Workshops
Wherever you live, you should be able to find tech events, conferences, meetups, and workshops. You may have to travel across state lines or attend virtually, but a tech event puts you in direct communication with industry leaders and peers.
Starting a conversation with someone you don't know can be easier at these events, which feature panel discussions and breakout sessions meant to facilitate conversation.
How to Ask Someone to Be Your Mentor
Before you ask someone to be your mentor, you must prepare. First, have a clear idea of what you hope to gain. You can write a proposal or a few bullet points to outline your goals. Do you need help initially getting into tech? Or, do you have a question about a career switch?
Your potential mentor will have questions and expect you to work for your goals. Be prepared to hear no. Rejection from a potential mentor does not mean you should give up..
Next, you'll need to decide on whether to meet in person, virtually, over email, or the phone.
In a face-to-face interaction, you can ease into asking for mentorship. Maybe, first, ask to meet for coffee and have a casual conversation to get to know each other. Each conversation should build off the previous one.
After each conversation, remember to thank your potential mentor for their time and advice. If you think they'd be a good mentor, explain why you value their advice and support and how a mentorship could further benefit you.
Frequently Asked Questions About Finding a Tech Mentor
What should you look for in a tech mentor?
Look for a tech mentor who has a more senior position than you, preferably in your area of expertise. For instance, if you work in UX/UI design or software development, find someone in that field. Seek out a mentor who has a senior-level job.
You can gain more from someone who has the experience you lack, the insight, and the connections. Connecting with an experienced mentor will help when you need a reference or letter of recommendation.
Tech mentors should also have the personal qualities that make them approachable, good listeners, and available when you have a question or need to talk.
Is it worth getting a tech mentor?
Yes. Mentorships offer valuable advice for people starting out in tech, but they also require hard work. A tech mentor expects you to continue learning, networking, and training to reach your goals.
It can feel intimidating to ask someone to be a mentor. However, consider the benefits of receiving wisdom from a senior tech worker. It also costs nothing to be a mentee.
Mentors often have benefited in their younger years from mentorships and want to provide that same support to a person just starting out. At the very least, a mentorship can lead to a larger network.
How long should you have a tech mentor for?
How long a mentorship lasts depends on your expectations and your tech mentor's availability. You could have a tech mentor for only a few months or throughout your professional career.
Foster your connections and continue to stay in contact with people in your network. Continue going to conferences, meetups, and workshops to continue to make new connections. You never know who could end up being your tech mentor.