A recent text from a close friend:
Wendy! Could use some advice from my HR/professional development friend. 😉 Any suggestions on how you ask someone to be your mentor?
So, I am conflicted about “formal” mentoring. I know this can be heresy in the HR world…Clutch your pearls now!
If you’re thinking about asking someone to be your mentor, it’s likely you already have a relationship. If you don’t, you need to start and build a relationship, even if as a casual acquaintance. Once there’s a bit of a relationship in place, you can email or start up a conversation along the lines of:
“I’ve always thought of you as a mentor, and would appreciate your perspective on XYZ right now.”
Once you’ve had that exchange, and shared your gratitude for her perspective, you can ask if she’d be comfortable with you keeping her your list of people to reach out to for similar coaching or advice in the future.
What you’re doing is asking for the mentoring AFTER it’s already happening, which means you’ve let the mentor experience what you’re expecting. “Being a mentor” can feel big, and like another commitment or obligation. Asking after you’ve shown that it won’t take up too much of their time, and will be easy, it’s more likely you’ll get a yes for an ongoing mentoring relationship.
Here is the key to successful mentoring: YOU have to give something back to your mentor. It’s not a one-way street. Any relationship has to be mutually beneficial, and mentoring is not an exception. This can come through in many different ways: she gets (some) credit for your brilliance at work, or early information on what’s happening in other parts of your industry or organization. It could be great book recommendations, or helping her stay plugged in to the latest technology advancements applicable to your work.
Mentees have to give as well as take.