How to win a top mentor to help boost your career

Achieving success in professional life is like in sports: you’ve got to play with a stronger partner to become stronger yourself. The benefits are obvious: you get concrete strategies that have already worked, you move faster on already prepared roads, your mind becomes trained to higher levels of quality, you subconsciously model successful people’s behavior, language, posture, tone etc.

Studies [1] show that mentoring raises professional success in terms of compensation, promotions and overall satisfaction. Having the right mentor is a bliss and a true multiplicator. But like anything valuable in this world, you will have to work for it, because good mentors are hard to find.

Negotiation Trainer Svitlana Kalitsun shares some useful tips on how to engage a mentor.

Put your best foot forward

Mentors select mentees based on their performance and potential. They want to be invested in your success. Therefore, make sure your potential mentors get to see your A-game. Engage busy seniors with a thoughtful question or an interesting point if you want to show your potential. Sometimes your mentor is your boss. Therefore, just get in the game and start letting them see your good work. Remember to show constant strive for excellence in your work and eagerness to learn and grow under their guidance. This way you might be able to develop a simple business relationship into a trusting collaboration.

Establish a relationship

Mentors prefer to know their proteges before coaching them. Look for connection points and grow that potential. Never burst out with the question “Would you like to be my mentor?” too soon, that would be like asking someone to marry you on the first date. Let the connection grow over time by showing your eagerness to learn and finding ways to give back to the mentor as well. Mentorship is no one-way street. Most mentors volunteer their time because they have benefited from their mentors earlier and want to give back. But an especially worthy mentee will find a way to give back beyond that. Maybe you have special knowledge in an area they are not familiar with? Maybe you have IT, social media or marketing skills they could benefit from. Maybe you know of opportunities you could share, interesting conferences, articles. Keep thinking about little things you could do to add value to them.

Keep in touch and make it easy for them

Good mentors tend to be busy people. It’s up to you to keep in touch. Try to take as much organization as possible into your hands. Schedule calls, send reminders, pick a restaurant (close to them, of course), make a reservation, propose an agenda or invite them to networking events. An invitation to catch up might be of less interest than a thoughtful discussion of a hot topic.

Be specific in your requests

Most mentors prefer to deal with specific problems and help you with real solutions. A mentor with a high-stress job will probably be more interested to help you find a handy solution than talking about abstract challenges. “I have been thinking about doing an LLM in X area for Y reason at C university and I am wondering whether…” rather than “What do you think about LLMs?” will not only make you sound more prepared but also get you better tips.

Be positive and prepared

Try to avoid complaints at any means. Show your passion and enthusiasm. Prepare your questions, structure your ideas, and most importantly: know what you want before you go to see your mentor.