I’ve heard different approaches about finding a mentor — waiting for someone to approach you, or approaching them yourself. Only one of my mentors has approached me; all the other ones came from relationships I’ve cultivated.

But, man, it can be awkward putting yourself out there all like, “Hey…I admire you…will you invest in me while I’m still a nobody?” I mean, that’s not *actually* how I say it. But that’s what it feels like. I’ve learned to be ok with a “no” and not to take it as rejection. After all, I’m asking some pretty significant, busy, results-driven people to take time out of their schedule for me. A “no” is probably more about their commitments than it is about me.

So here are some emails I sent recently to give you an idea of how I seek a mentor. You’ll see a common theme: be specific in what I’m seeking and why, provide a timeframe, and give an easy out. One of these respondents said no, and the other one said yes. Please feel free to use these in seeking out mentors of your own. And offer to mentor others, too (I try to have 2+ mentees for every mentor — and right now I have 4 active mentors).

Hi, POTENTIAL MENTOR,

I’m interested in learning as much as I can from you, and I was wondering if you could mentor me directly? I envision this as meeting twice a month for 30 minutes (could even be lunch or morning coffee/breakfast) or once a month for an hour, and we would discuss 1) questions I have about how you operate and what you’ve learned (e.g., how do you get people to follow, how do you identify talent, how do you address certain challenges); 2) your perspective on any issues, decisions, or opportunities I’m facing; and 3) any feedback or ideas you have for me that would help me grow.

I know you’re extremely busy, and so I totally understand if this won’t work in your schedule right now. But if it does, then I’m excited about learning everything I can from you!

Thanks so much,
ME

Hi, POTENTIAL MENTOR!

Congratulations on your RECENT CAREER DEVELOPMENT.

The last time we spoke I was SHORT CAREER RECAP. I’m currently SHORT CAREER STATEMENT.

Also during this time, I’m working with a professional coach. We’ve spent the last couple months identifying and distilling my core values as a leader – who I want to be and how I want to live. As part of this process, my coach asked me if I knew of anyone who embodied these values—you were the first person who came to mind.

While I can learn from you from a distance, I realize I would learn so much more about leadership from you directly. So I wanted to reach out to see if you’d be interested in mentoring me? I envision this looking like meeting up once every 4-6 weeks about 10-15 times for me to ask questions, get your take on current challenges I’m experiencing, and hear from you anything you think is valuable to pass on. Alternatively, if that doesn’t work for you time-wise, would you be open to meeting up just once in the next couple months?

Thanks so much,