How to find the perfect mentor

Want a mentor, but don’t know where to find one, especially a good one? It's tricky, we know. Here’s how you can find your perfect mentor within your line of work.

Before we start, some companies have mentoring programmes, and if your company offers mentors take full advantage and sign up. 

If there is no programme in your company, here’s what you should be considering you find the perfect mentor, and the steps you need to take to start the mentoring process. 

Who should you ask?

It’s likely that when considering who to ask to be your mentor you’ll be thinking about people that you currently work with or have worked with in the past, who are more experienced and who were either your direct boss, or someone more qualified that yourself. They don’t necessarily have the same career trajectory as you would like, but they’ve intimate knowledge of their industry and have made their own mistakes which they can learn from. You’ll also want to be able to trust their judgement and respect any feedback they give you, as well as being able to open up to them. 

Considering your career journey so far there might be four or five people you could ask, although this may depend on your age and the stage of your career. If you’ve just started out in your career, and don’t have a lot of contacts, you might also want to consider family friends with more experience who are working in a similar field to you. 

How should you ask them?

Firstly, approach them via email and find out whether you can have a brief chat about your career. This could be over the phone, online or face-to-face but it will give you the opportunity to craft a mentoring ‘pitch’ to get them on board. 

The idea behind the pitch is that you persuade them in a way that they just can’t resist! Let them know that you are serious about your work commitments and career goals, and learn a bit about your potential mentor’s career. Tell them that you are interested in their journey, and think that you can learn something from them, as well as being inspired by certain aspects of their career.

Chat to them about what you are looking for in your career, and ask them about whether they had any tips or nuggets of wisdom. 

You could ask them initially whether they would be prepared to mentor you, however it may be that you ask for a number of chats with them to get to know them a bit better and build rapport, and only ask them formally about mentorship at a later date.

The mentorship programme

When you do ask them formally, make sure that you are serious about what you’d like to achieve and what you expect from them. 

This might include:

  • How often you meet/talk
  • What your expectations are
  • Agreeing to confidentiality
  • What you’d like to achieve in the near future in your career (you can reassess this every 6 months or so)
  • Whether you’ll use a mentoring framework and other guidance
  • What you’d like from them, e.g. feedback, honesty, the ability to listen

Finding a mentor is a slow process, and it’s important to find the right person, so don’t worry if you are not having luck initially.

Other ways to find mentors

There are some mentorship programmes which offer either face-to-face or online mentorship for a fee. They often work with specific people, for example women or people of colour, or are tailored to a specific industry. If you really do want to have a mentor, they can be a second port of call, however your recruiting from your personal network is a much better option to start with.