How to Approach Someone to Mentor You
No one knows it all. That concept is extremely apparent in today’s society when there is constant innovation and updates to established processes and procedures. When it comes to your career, it’s important to embrace the idea that getting support from someone with an outside perspective can help you actually achieve your goals (and usually much faster than trying to go it alone). Having a mentor to discuss obstacles and problems can allow you to avoid the common missteps that hinder many life science professionals.
Studies have shown that mentoring is associated with positive career outcomes such as enhanced skill/competence development and recognition/success.* Despite understanding all of this many people still don’t have a mentor for a few reasons. First, they don’t know what to look for in a mentor and secondly, they don’t know how to find a mentor. We’ve already addressed those challenges in previous articles, so let’s assume that you have a potential mentor in mind. What do you say to them? Here is a step-by-step blueprint on how to approach someone to mentor you!
Request a one-on-one meeting
Ask your potential mentor out for lunch or to meet for coffee. Ideally, you want to meet with them in person for an hour. Talking in person gives you the opportunity to observe someone’s body language and pick up on other cues that you simply can’t see over the phone. If meeting in person is not a possibility, I’d suggest a virtual meeting over Skype (or some other technology with a visual component), before settling on a phone call.
Recap their accomplishments and contributions
In preparation for your meeting, do some research and understand your potential mentor’s history, accomplishments, and key career contributions. After initial conversation during the meeting, you want to transition into talking about their accolades. You could mention how you respect all that they’ve done in their industry, department, or job role. Be authentic here and truly congratulate them on the value they’ve demonstrated to an organization or any goals they’ve achieved.
Briefly outline your career goals
Now, you want to shift gears into talking about yourself. Saying something like, “I aspire to be a laboratory director as well” helps to position you as an ambitious professional. Most people are very busy and it’s up to you to show your potential mentor that they should invest time with you. This is also a good spot to mention any highlights or promotions you’ve received in the past. You want to keep this part of the conversation brief, no more than 5-7 minutes. Your potential mentor should be the main topic of this conversation, since you will be asking for their time.
Describe your mutual connection
At this point, you want to make it clear that you both have similarities extending beyond surface level attributes. You could talk about how your personalities pair well together, that you both look at things from a similar viewpoint, or aspects of your background that are the same. Mention anything that reinforces the fact that you both have a strong connection. This step is vital because it directly aligns you with the potential mentor, which assists in laying the foundation for a continued relationship.
Ask for their support through mentorship
You’re finally at the point where you can ask for their support as a mentor. “Based on your track record of success, I think there is a lot that you could teach me. Would you be willing to me mentor me?” After you ask the question, you want to stop, be silent, and wait for their response. If they say anything ranging from maybe to yes, you want to briefly outline what that mentorship could look like. “I appreciate your consideration! I was thinking of an arrangement that would be convenient for you and not take up much of your time. We could have a quarterly meeting (or monthly phone call) where you could give me advice on career development…”
Approaching someone to mentor you can feel scary. You’re putting yourself out there to possibly experience rejection. If you’ve done your homework in identifying a potential mentor, you can feel more confident about starting the conversation. Requesting a one on one meeting and preparing for it by researching your potential mentor’s accomplishments is a great start. If you briefly outline your career goals and focus on your mutual connection, it can help to convince someone that they should mentor you.
Porschia Parker is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. She empowers ambitious professionals to add $10K on average to their salaries.