How do you find a mentor? This is one of the most common questions I get from professionals who are looking to develop their careers. They know they don’t have all the answers and they do not know where to begin to find someone to help them. Do you just walk up to some random person in the office and say “hey, can you be my mentor?” or should you reach out to that thought leader you follow on social media?

Many people find mentorship extremely useful; they get advice, guidance and knowledge to help you solve the challenges that they may have. The challenge is finding a willing mentor can be difficult. Mentorship is very time consuming for the person that is providing it and often clashes with their own day to day activities. So back to my original question, how do you find a mentor?

Identify potential mentors

Ask yourself a simple question, who do you want to be like? If you don’t know anyone in your field that you admire, you should start there by getting more involved in the industry. A quick google will show you various networking groups, social media channels and personalities along with other industry groups for you to explore. You should spend some time following those people and groups on LinkedIn or other social platforms and attending industry events. Other a period, you should get to know of a few people who you admire. Those are your potential mentors.

Do not ask them to be your mentor

I am not kidding. Do not ask the person to be your mentor. There are two reasons for this. First, its almost certain that the person you have identified to be your mentor, is a senior person who is busy. The mentor is going to have their own career and family commitments, so asking them to formally mentor you, you are almost always going to get rejected. Second, if you don’t have a personal connection with this person, which is usually the case, why are they going to give up some of their time to mentor you? You may want their knowledge, but what is it in it for them? Just expecting the person to mentor you, because you want their help, is the height of entitlement.

Get on their radar

Follow them on social media and attend industry events that they are part of. Like and share their content, post comments on their posts on social media. Share your experience and ask questions about topics they have posted. If you are at an industry event, introduce yourself after they have spoken and compliment them. Ask them some follow up questions on a point that they made. All in all, you need to build a rapport with them over a period of time. This does not mean 1 or 2 interactions; it should be sustained over several months.

Are you someone they would want to spend time with?

While building rapport, you must think about your own conduct. After all, if this person is going to mentor you, they are going to have to want to spend some time with you. If you don’t come across well, they are never going to spend time with you. If they are at an industry event and you just barge into the middle of a conversation between them and someone else, you are going to seem rude and pushy. If you talk down to others in their presence, they aren’t going to want to spend time with you. If you are demanding and entitled, they aren’t going to want to spend time with you. See where I am going with this?

Ask them for some advice

If you have done all of this correctly, you will find yourself in a situation down the line where you are able to ask them for some advice. Note, I said advice and not to be your mentor. They are arguably the same thing, but the nuance is the request. If you have been part of the community and built a rapport. It’s the perfect time to say “hey, can I buy you a coffee or drink and get some advice on xxx?” They should know you and feel comfortable enough to say yes. The important thing is to make the request seem as informal and relaxed as can be. If you request a formal lunch or dinner its more likely to be turned down, as the time commitment anticipated is much higher. If you get this right, and make the right impression, you will find it easy to turn this one-off coffee to get some advice in to something more regular.