A few weeks ago I created a video series on my Instagram and Tiktok by creating a literal map for finding a mentor. This article is a compilation of the journey.
Hold on to your hats because this is going to be an adventure!
Stop 1: The Big Why
Have you ever wanted a mentor but didn’t know how to find one?
Start by thinking about why you want a mentor in the first place. What do you really need help with?
A good question to ask yourself is – if you could wave a magic wand and learn something what would it be?
Skipping this step in the journey is going to make it a whole lot longer and you’re going to end up right back where you started.
A few examples of your big why:
- I really want to learn exactly what I need to do to land my next promotion
- I want to learn a few specific machine learning tricks
- I need to figure out how to change from software development to UX design
Stop 2: Puzzle Piece Island
Figure out what your missing puzzle pieces are and who might have them.
A good guiding question here is – who or what would have these answers.
Suppose you want to get a job as a software engineer.
Your pieces might be:
- Learn to code
- learn how to interview
- figure out how to land a job
The internet or a mentor might be able to help you figure these out too.
You’re very rarely going to find one person who has all your pieces. So the next step is to figure out who would have them
Want to Learn to code 👉boot camp or university probably has those pieces
Learn how to interview 👉 YouTube, maybe a peer whose done those before
Don’t hunt for a singular person to have all your answers – the perfect person to guide you on all aspects of your life doesn’t exist.
And to make the most of your mentors time make sure you do your research before hand.
Stop 3: Send the Messages
Once you figure out what you need help with you need to ask for it!
Look for friends, teachers, etc that you know that fits the bill or someone who might know someone and see if they’d be willing to meet to answer some of your questions.
If it’s someone you’ve never met before I would not ask them to be your mentor. Mostly because it’s a vague and big ask. They might not understand what you want and it feels like a big commitment for someone you’ve never met.
Ask for an initial meeting and if you both enjoy the conversation ask if they’d be willing to meet on a regular cadence.
Here’s a template:
“Hi, X has told me great things about the work you do, and I absolutely love (insert thing they did). It really helped me learn (something you learnt).
My goal is to (insert thing you want to learn/do). So far I’ve tried to (insert what you’ve tried so far: courses, blogs, etc.) however I’m still struggling to figure out (insert what you need help with).
Given your experience, I’d love to learn how you approach (thing you’re struggling with). Do you or someone you know, be able to spend some time with me.”
Stop 4: Testy Waters
Not all mentors are meant for you! Yess you can reject mentorship as well.
If you can’t be transparent with a mentor about your struggles you’re not gaining value.
Don’t stay in turbulent waters for too long because before you know it you’ll be headed in the wrong direction.
Take a meeting or two, see if the shoe fits and if it doesn’t, then listen to your gut and move on.
Focus on who you’re able to open up and learn from. The rest is fluff.
Destination: The Mentor
You’re not going to have one mentor in your life!
You’re going to change, your relation with your mentor will evolve
You’re going to embark on finding mentors again in your life. Some will just come to you naturally, and some you’re going to need to seek out.
Some might be a peer or even someone younger than you.
Some may not even call themselves a mentor. And some, you may not have ever met, but you learn from what they do and create.
If you’ve been feeling like you’re at a disadvantage in life because you don’t have a Yoda – I promise you most us don’t either.
Instead we have many people that guide us in different aspects of things. And isn’t that a lot more fun.
Bonus Path: Just for the brave
If you’ve been struggling to find a mentor but have never considered being a mentor – I am here to call you out!!
The most common excuse I see is – “I have nothing to offer”. If you cringe at what you did 5 years ago then you my friend absolutely have something to offer
If that’s not a good enough reason let me give you a few more:
- Mentoring other people will give you access to better mentors: Really good mentors want to give their time to people who will amplify their voice. All of my favorite mentors and allies stick around because they know im not going to waste their time and will help a ton of others
- Explaining stuff to people is a major confidence boost because you feel like you actually know something
- The skills you learn when you mentor someone else are a whole other level. Teaching is the best way to learn and you’ll uncover so many blind spots
What does around comes around!
About the Writer
Dasani is a Program Manager at Microsoft. She uses Dasani Decoded to decode and democratize what she learns! Connect with her for more valuable content.