How to Ask Someone to Be Your Mentor & Make the Most of that Relationship

Finding new ways to stand out from other young professionals can seem daunting. It seems like mostly every driven college woman is stepping up their game to gain experience, go to graduate school or expand her network. You are expected to do these things if you want to be successful, but how can you actually get ahead?

We talked with mentors and mentees from Mentor Collective, a company that helps over 50 institutions nationwide manage large-scale mentoring programs, to learn how having this connection will help advance you professionally and perhaps give you that extra edge you need.

Related: So You Graduated College but Don’t Have a Job. Now What?

What a mentor can do for you

Having a mentor is one of those things you never knew you needed. You’re driven, successful and seem to have your life together but once you find this relationship, you’ll ask yourself why you waited so long in the first place.

Emily Boyd is the Director of Undergraduate Studies and oversees the Mentor Collective program at Washington University in St. Louis. She says, “A mentor can support you in a way that no one else does because that person is something between a friend, academic advisor, career counselor and life coach. Most jobs are secured through personal connections, not blindly sending in applications.”

More and more companies are implementing mentorship programs and young professionals are reaping the benefits. 77% of companies with mentoring programs say they improve retention and job performance. Not only is this great for the company, but it also means their employees - like you - are being integrated into the company in a more beneficial and empowering way.

Melanie White is a mentor at Indiana University's Center of Excellence for Women in Technology. She says, “Getting advice and information directly from someone in your field early on in your career can not only save you time, but can also give you insight into topics that would have taken you years to learn.”

Mentors often offer new advice or a fresh perspective when you’re weighing your options. They can help guide your decisions and empower you based on their own experiences. Better yet, you can have more than one mentor because everyone brings different strengths to the table.

Will you be my mentor?

Understanding the importance of having a mentor is easy, but finding the right one can take a little time. Like any relationship, you want to make sure it suits you and your needs. Get real about what you want. Where do you see yourself in five years? What field do you want to work in? What steps do you need to take to get there?

These are the questions we are consistently asked at family parties. Thankfully, a mentor will not only ask you these questions but they will help you succeed at finding the answers and figure out what you want if you’re unsure!

“If your school or company has a mentorship program already established, that’s the first place to start looking for a mentor. Otherwise, it’s best to get out in your community and meet people,” says Emily. “Once you find a potential mentor, someone you think you can learn from, identify the reasons this person could be helpful to you. The next step is to approach him or her and ask to email/talk/meet so that you can learn from that person for those reasons.”

If you never felt a strong connection to any professors in college or aren’t enticed by anyone at your company, try involving yourself in different groups in your community —perhaps a book club! Start conversations and express your interests. It’ll be easy to tell from talking to people which ones have the time and desire to be good mentors, and which ones don’t want to put in the extra effort.

Again, this is why it’s important to know what you want or what you’re interested in. Your potential mentor will appreciate your ability to be straightforward because this allows them to easily help you get what you want and see if they’re a good fit for you. If you’re uncertain about what your future looks like, it can be worth finding mentors in multiple fields while you’re still exploring your options.

“This process can be intimidating, since most people have a fear of rejection, but you would be surprised at how helpful and kind people can be when approached with sincerity,” concludes Boyd.

<We’re all about putting ourselves out there and making connections count! Don’t let fear hold you back from approaching someone.

You have a mentor, now what?

There’s no point in having a mentor unless you are proactive in utilizing that relationship to your advantage. Make a point to stay in touch with your mentor, schedule monthly meetings and update them on your life so they can best help you navigate it.

Aisha Burton, a mentee in the Biology Department at Indiana University, says, “My mentor has helped me identify ways to improve my organizational skills and work-life balance. When thinking about the future, they helped me identify my weaknesses and how I can potentially improve on them.”

Chances are, your mentor won’t be someone who knows you inside and out. This is a good thing! You will grow closer to them as time passes, but it’s helpful that they can view your life with fresh eyes and give you honest opinions on how to go about finding success.

Being open with your mentor is beneficial for them as well and makes this new connection worthwhile. You will probably end up teaching them something new, too!

Melanie says, “One of my favorite things about being a mentor is seeing how my real life experiences can benefit someone else and seeing the effects of the advice that I give in real time. My mentee has taught me to make the best out of each situation, even if it is not your ideal.”

It’s never too early to seek out a mentor, even if you’re uncertain about what your future looks like. You don’t have to have it all figured out right now, but a mentor can be a good place to start. Cheers to doing whatever it takes to find success and feel empowered!

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