Getting help from a mentor in your field can be a great way to boost your career. But how exactly do you approach a potential mentor? Here are a few ways to make sure you're starting off on the right foot if you're meeting a potential mentor for the first time.
- Establish your goals. Before you even begin your search for a mentor, it's important to establish your motivations and goals first. For example, let's say you're hoping to switch careers and enter the programming industry. Why are you interested in programming? What kind of job do you want as a programmer? Where do you want to work? How do you imagine your career trajectory in this field? These questions can help narrow your search for the most appropriate mentor.
- Do your homework. You don't want to approach a mentor without any knowledge about his or her career and field. Instead, you should come with your own research and ask your mentor for clarity and advice. This way, your mentor can provide valuable insight, rather than waste his time on a basic intro into his work.
- Value your mentor's time and be accommodating. Once you have your research and goals in mind, it's time to email your potential mentor. It's best to reach out to a mentor with a specific goal and time in mind. For example, you might want to ask for 15 minutes of her time to talk with you about best strategies for networking in her field. In addition, you want to accommodate her schedule: if she's busy during the day but can meet with you in the evenings, don't counter with your own offer. Since you're the one asking for a favor, it makes sense that you would be open to her preferred times.
- Thank your mentor and return the favor. If you find a great mentor that is able to help you and provide great insight, advice, and contacts, be sure to give thanks! A thank you email can go a long way, especially if you have news on how your mentor's advice has helped you.
Lastly, ask if there's anything you can do for your mentor: for example, your mentor might appreciate it if you share his or her articles or comment on them. Not only does it help your mentor, but it also helps build your relationship with him or her.
Sabina Nawaz at Forbes offers the same advice but with great, personal examples. We recommend that you read her piece. For additional information on this or related topics, visit the Career Advice or Self-Improvement sections of our blog.
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