How to Find a Mentor Who Will Best Support Your Growth

UPDATED: April 3, 2024
PUBLISHED: March 28, 2024
Older male mentor and younger female mentee walking and talking

Finding the right mentor can help you navigate challenging situations and gain perspective on your career. While learning how to find a mentor can be intimidating, it is a skill that can be essential to helping you get ahead at work and in life. Below, we look at what you need to consider when learning how to get a mentor and some tips for finding the best one for you. 

Do I need a mentor or a coach?

Figuring out what you need help with is a significant first step in deciding if you need a coach or a mentor. People often use these terms interchangeably, but they can be very different. While both can help someone advance in their career, a coach is typically someone you hire to help you work through a particular issue or objective.

Mentorships, on the other hand, often center on a voluntary relationship where the mentor offers general advice and guidance to their mentee. Many mentors aren’t paid and most allow their mentee to guide the overall discussion. 

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How to find a mentor

Once you’ve decided that a mentor is better suited for your needs than a coach, it’s time to learn how to get a mentor. The following are six steps that we recommend taking to find the right one for you. 

1. Determine what you’re looking for in a mentor

Considering which goals you’re looking to achieve can help you clearly identify your priorities and ultimately know what to look for in a mentor. Create a list of your specific goals to help you qualify your potential candidates. Then, create a separate list of people you know or admire in your industry and cross-reference their skills and achievements against your list of objectives. Research whether their work and values align with yours and if their successes align with where you want to be. 

If you don’t have specific people in mind, then check local professional networking groups or organizations that help match people with mentors. Many libraries and community service centers also have mentorship programs that can guide you on what to look for in a mentor and how to ask someone to be your mentor. This is especially helpful for younger individuals seeking general life guidance instead of industry-specific insights.

2. Make contact

Before asking someone to be your mentor, you should set up an initial meeting. You could suggest meeting for coffee, either in person or virtually, and spending some time getting to know each other better. 

A mentor can be a powerful influence in your career and life. Similar to a romantic relationship, it’s essential to take your time and meet various people to ensure you’re making the best choice. While many people are great at their jobs and can provide important insights, their values may not align with yours. Or, your personalities just might not “click.” 

3. Ask them to be your mentor 

After you’ve met your potential mentor and confirmed they’re a great fit, it’s time to formally ask them to be your mentor. If you’re wondering how to ask someone to be your mentor, ask them in person if they live locally, or ask via email or phone if they live a significant distance away from you.

Before asking someone to be your mentor, consider the following:

  • Know what to look for in a mentor and their services: Before you ask someone for career help, you need to know what you hope to gain from the relationship. Do you need help navigating a specific problem at work? Are you wondering if returning to school or changing career tracks is right? Spend time thinking about what you hope to gain so you can ask for specific advice. 
  • Point to specifics: In your request for mentorship, include specifics about their work and background that you believe will help make them an effective mentor. This shows your potential mentor that you did your homework and considered the request.
  • Don’t waste their time: Make it clear that you are committed and willing to put in the time and energy to succeed. Be prepared at every meeting to show your progress or how you’ve implemented previous advice.
  • Understand the mentor is not your friend or therapist: Remember that while the mentor and mentee relationship can be friendly, you are not friends who are catching up. Instead, you are meeting for a specific purpose. While a bit of chitchat is fine, don’t show up to your meetings just to vent or complain.

4. Don’t take rejection personally 

Unfortunately, not everyone has the time or desire to be a mentor, and they may say no to your request. Try not to take rejection personally. Instead, start over by researching other people from your initial list of candidates. Finding the right candidate may take several attempts, so stay optimistic about the process and keep looking. 

5. Check in regularly 

Regular check-ins are part of being a good mentee. They help your mentor know that you’re serious about their help. Having mini-deadlines can also ensure you progress steadily toward your goals. How often you meet with your mentor depends on your goals and schedule. During your first discussions, decide when and how to meet. 

How often you meet with your mentor and where is dependent on both of your schedules and preferences. Some people decide to meet in person, only online or a combination of both. Also, most people choose to meet weekly or every other week. Some mentors, however, may have limited time available. This may result in only meeting once a month or for a fixed period. 

6. Show your gratitude 

In addition to thanking your mentor for their advice, one of  the greatest displays of gratitude is showing how you’ve put their advice into practice. This is often shown best through the progress you’ve made toward your goals. 

You can also show gratitude by honoring your mentor’s schedule and boundaries. Remember that your mentor is likely very busy. Don’t ask for last-minute reviews of documents or projects, and honor their preferred method of contact. 

Consider ways to return the favor and help your mentor with their projects or pay it forward and eventually become one yourself.

Five tips to get a mentor that’s right for you 

While learning how to ask someone to be your mentor takes practice, these tips can help you make the most of your mentorship opportunities: 

  • Be direct. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to be your mentor, even if they may reject the offer. Most people will be flattered that you considered them.
  • Have multiple mentors. Many people find it effective to have multiple mentors at one time to help them with their goals. Consider having more than one if you can effectively handle the time commitment and make progress on each of your goals.
  • Keep your initial request short and direct. When asking someone for an introductory meeting, keep your request short and direct. Most professionals are very busy and don’t have time to wade through an essay-length request. 
  • Follow up. Your email may arrive during a busy time for your potential mentor. If they reply with “not right now” instead of “no,” mark your calendar to follow up in a month or two politely. Be persistent, and it may pay off.
  • Define success. Let your mentor know what success means to you and share your plan for reaching your goals. They are there to offer advice when things get off course, but the planning and implementation required to achieve your goals is up to you.

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