One of the most important strategies for personal and professional growth is to strategically surround ourselves with mentors and advisors that have achieved what we want to achieve, have overcome the challenges that we face now and in the future, will help us see our blind spots, and believe in us enough to invest in our success.
Corporations across the globe invest heavily in mentorship. According to a Wharton study, mentors were promoted 6X more, mentees 5x more, and retention rates were 20% higher.
If you work for a business that doesn't have a formal mentoring program, or if you work for yourself, you're still in great shape! It's never been easier to meet so many potential mentors, or to reach out to them for help.
However at the same time, all of us are over-committed and must double down on efforts to block out the noise from frivolous requests that come our way.
To capture the attention of a potential mentor and hold it long enough for him/her to consider mentorship, your message must be highly targeted, clear, and answer these 4 questions.
1: Why Do I Want This Person To Mentor Me?
What specifically about this person attracts you to them? What have they accomplished? How do they live their life? How have they helped others? How well do you know them? Are you basing your attraction on what you see online, or have you engaged?
2: What Do I Specifically Want To Learn From Them?
A business owner shared with me that she had reached out to a desired mentor a few times and had not received a response. I asked her, "Why do you want her to mentor you?" She quickly answered, "Because she owns 21 businesses." I replied, "Wow that's a lot. How do you know they are all successful?"
She stared at me. Then I said, "The number of businesses she owns is not the reason you want her to mentor you. What do you want to learn from her?" She had never thought about that before. Finally, with a light in her eyes she said, "I want to learn her secrets for time management." She explained that she has many ideas and she knows she wants to build more than one business, but she doesn't know how.
3: How Will I Apply What I Learn?
Let's say you successfully enroll a mentor. Someone steps up to stand beside you to help you get to the next level. You've identified the specific body of knowledge you want to learn from your mentor. How will you implement? You'll want to share that you have thought about this when you reach out.
Assume if you are seeking mentorship from someone you admire, it's likely that others are also reaching out to this person. Clearly articulating how you will apply your knowledge will set you apart, and demonstrate that you are coachable. No advisors or mentors want to work with a mentee or protégé that will waste their time and not implement what they teach.
4: Why Should Someone Mentor Me?
Why you? In a sea of people seeking mentorship, how do you stand apart? What is your value proposition and mission? How committed are you to growth? What will you do to ensure that your mentor is not wasting their valuable time with you?
Crafting an Effective Mentorship Request
Once you're convinced you have found the right mentor for the right reasons, that you're ready to implement, and that you are the unique one that a mentor should help, it's time for The Ask. Both phone and email are effective.
Here is a sample introductory email:
I'm reaching out because I have admired your work for quite a while, and I welcome the opportunity to talk or meet with you to discuss the possibility of establishing a mentorship relationship. I have outlined why I have chosen you, what I hope to learn from you, how I will apply what you teach me, and why I am a worthwhile investment of your time."
From this point, you can customize the email to reflect your specific needs.
You want to conclude your message with a specific call to action. Will you wait to hear from them? Will you follow up with a phone call? Will you suggest several dates where you can visit them in their office or meet them for coffee to connect in person? What is the next step?
Ideally, your messaging and thinking will reflect a combination of confidence and humility. It takes both to ask for and receive help, and to grow in a way that keeps you connected to your values and your mission. Good luck!