Besides assigned mentors or programs, your professional development is mainly up to you. Asking someone out of the blue may not get the results you want. Unless you know they are open and available to mentor, the person you found will not be willing to mentor someone they barely know. Building a relationship and tactfully asking someone to be your mentor takes a little patience. Here is some advice to get you started.
Establish a Connection
Connecting with them personally is one way to establish a relationship. Perhaps they spoke in an interview about overcoming a similar obstacle, or you read their inspirational book. Respectfully ask for their time to answer a few questions by phone or email. It initiates a conversation on mutual interest.
Ex: Dear _____, your presentation on _____ resonated with me because ______. I’d love to ask you some questions about how you _____. Would you be available for a brief 15-minute phone conversation?
Another way of establishing a connection is by reaching out to support them. If you want a mentor to learn from the best, offer to help them on their projects to get your foot in the door. You will form a beneficial relationship where you give them a set of extra hands while showing off your skills, and they teach you what you want to learn.
Ex: Dear _____, I heard you were working on ____. Given my experience as ______, would you be interested in services to help you _____.
An amazing mentor/mentee relationship comes from mutual friendship. The better you know each other, the more natural the transition to mentorship.
Make Your Ask
Once you build a relationship, you can begin transitioning into a more formal mentorship. Consider why you want the mentorship and how it will benefit each other. The more specific your expectations are, the easier it is for them to decide. Some expectations include: how often you want to meet, what you want to learn, how they will benefit, etc.
If they say yes…
Congratulations! You’ve gained a mentor that understands you professionally and personally. The next step is setting up the first meeting to plan your mentor/mentee relationship.
If they say no…
You may feel hurt or upset at first, but remember that their “no” can turn into a “yes” in the future. Their reason to decline is likely due to other factors outside your relationship. That does not mean they do not want a relationship with you at all. Thank them for their honesty and consideration.
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