How to ask someone to be your mentor

CAREER ADVICE   |   3 minutes  |   December 6, 2016

Traversing your career path is no easy feat – industries change, roles are adapted, goals are achieved, relationships form and fizzle.

The good news? You’re not expected to take this journey alone.

The world’s greatest thinkers, leaders and game-changers have all relied on the advice of those who came before them to develop the leadership skills and traits we respect them for.

80% of CEOs polled said they have had mentors, allowing them access to insider knowledge and power, fast tracking their careers.

Are you ready to find your own mentor?

You have the opportunity to learn from your industry’s best and advance your own leadership skills. All you need to do is ask.

But, before you jump head first into asking for that mentor, it’s important you’ve chosen the perfect leader to provide the right coaching for your goals, and have mastered effective communication to sell your request for mentorship.

Here are the do’s and don’ts you need to keep top of mind when asking someone to be your mentor:

1. The right person, in the right place


  • Choose someone who has the title, position or experience you’re hoping to achieve in the next few years. If you’re a junior in the sales department, chances are the company CEO is not going to provide you much value in terms of the leadership skills you’ll need immediately.
  • Select a mentor that values honesty above all else. Effective communication is one of the key elements of your growth. If your mentor can’t be brutally honest with you, you could miss out on vital learning and growth opportunities.


  • Ask someone who lives far away. If the person lives in another country, finding time to meet or talk is going to be near impossible.
  • Ask someone who you’ve never had a conversation with. Mentorship relies heavily on a connection between two people have. If you’re chasing someone who doesn’t know your name, there’s a chance you won’t have much to talk about.

2. There’s a right way to ask, and a wrong one…


  • Always ask someone to be your mentor in person. Email may feel like an easy out, but if you can’t ask the person to be your mentor they won’t feel open to give you honest and straightforward feedback.
  • Tell them what you need from them as a mentor. If you can tell them what your expectations are from the get-go, your new mentor will feel more comfortable agreeing to help and you will ensure effective communication.


  • Go in unprepared. If you’re asking questions that are easy to Google, chances are your new mentor will see right through you and decline your offer. Be specific about areas you need advice in and what you’d like from them. Practicing an elevator pitch to this end will allow you to clearly communicate your desires and strategy.
  • Take without offering anything up. Mentorship should be a two-way street. Tell them you’re there to help them with anything they might need, and express your gratitude for their time.

3. Make the most of your mentor


  • Take the advice you get. Your mentor has been there before. Learn from their lessons about leadership skills and implement the advice they give you.
  • Pay it forward. Former Google CEO, Larry Page, received career-shaping advice from Steve Jobs and in turn took current Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, under his wing. Your professional life will be greatly enriched by mentorship and, when the time comes, you’ll have the opportunity to do the same for someone else – take it.


  • Be afraid to ask questions when you don’t understand. You might not always know where you’re going wrong – ask your mentor what you should be asking and where they think you need to improve
  • Make it difficult to meet up. Your mentor is there for your benefit so make sure you’re available when it suits them.

Focus on these points when asking the big question:

how to ask someone to be your mentor guide

Ready to challenge yourself by growing your skill set? 

Browse more than 60 short courses from the world’s leading universities.