How to Make a Good First Impression on Your Mentor

December 4, 2016, 3:00 PM UTC
Young business man listening to older business man
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The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How can you convince someone to be your mentor?” is written by Kris Duggan, CEO of BetterWorks.

Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to witness firsthand the great value that mentorship has for individuals looking to find success in the technology industry. Without leveraging the insights I gained from my own mentors, I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am today. And as an advisor to multiple organizations, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing multiple individuals grow and succeed under my own mentorship.

I can still remember when I was introduced to one of my mentors, venture capitalist John Doerr. When we first met I showed him a software prototype I was working on. At first John got angry, saying, “Why didn’t I think of this?” Then he said, “How can we become investors?” Now I speak to him weekly, and he has been the biggest supporter of the growth of my company.

With help from John and others along the way, I’ve gathered a few tips on the most effective ways to convince someone to guide you through your career. Here are four easy steps you can take to find the best mentor:

Find someone passionate about your field

It’s just as important to find the right person to mentor you as it is to convince them to take you on. While they don’t necessarily have to fit your exact situation or projected career path, they should at least share some of the same passions you have. For instance, if you’re interested in starting your own company, find someone who’s done it already; if you’re interested in learning how to become a manager or executive, find someone that you want to emulate, even if they’re in a different department than yours.

Grab their attention

Especially if your desired mentor is busy, it’s important to catch their attention. Try doing something out of the ordinary to contact them, such as recording and sending them a video about yourself, your interests, and why you want them to be your mentor. Or simply send them a gift basket. A little effort goes a long way toward convincing them that you are serious, legitimate, and credible. They want to see that you’re invested in being their mentee, and that you’re not going to waste their time.


Crush your first meeting

Once you’ve secured your first meeting, don’t arrive unprepared. To crush it, come with knowledge of your desired mentor’s background and field. Ask them challenging questions and engage them in an exciting dialogue, instead of making the conversation one-sided. The more interest you express in what they have to say, and the more you show them that you want to tap into their expertise, the more responsive they’ll be.

Set clear goals for working together

You should work with your mentor to set mutual expectations for your future working relationship. During the conversation, ask questions like: How often should we meet? What kind of advice and feedback would be most useful? What does success look like? Use these questions to consistently measure your progress. Both you and your mentor should agree upon and commit to these goals.

Of course, at the end of the day, it all comes down to being your complete self: If you are contagiously enthusiastic, your mentor will be excited to work with you—and that attitude can get you pretty far in life.

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