Skip navigation

Job seekers: 5 golden rules to finding a mentor


DATE: 18 October, 2016

In my last article, I promised you I’d tell you how to get a mentor. First of all, I want to remind you how amazing and important a mentor can be. They’re not just your go-to person for advice and support, but choose a really good mentor, and they may just be your ticket to Job Town, population = you! But there’s a few Golden Rules about how to go about getting one.

Mentor Golden Rule #1: If you want someone to be your mentor, don’t necessarily ask them to be your mentor!

Don’t ask them to be your mentor. Most awesome people are also busy people. And the thought of being a mentor and somehow being obligated to holding your hand while you cry about not having a job will, not surprisingly, not be all that attractive to them.

Mentor Golden Rule #2: It’s OK to trick someone into being your mentor.

It’s a bit like fishing. Dangle the bait. Make it seem really simple. Really easy. Then… Bam! You’ve got yourself a mentor on the line and you can reel them in.

Sometimes catching fish, or mentors, just isn’t that simple though, so let me give you some actual, practical advice about how to bait your hook.

Make the offer seem really easy. (This, by the way, is the essence of all marketing.) A lot of busy, insanely talented people are also really nice. Not all of them, but there’s plenty who are. And if they think there’s something really simple they can do to help, they will. As long as it’s not too difficult and doesn’t take too long. So make it really simple for them to help by just asking for something really simple.

For example, try asking something along the lines of this: “I know how busy you are, so I’m not going to camp out on your doorstep and make your life a living hell, but do you think it would be OK if I emailed you with a question if I need some advice every leap year or so?” Or “Is there any chance if I just sent you one piece of work if you could just spend literally like, 30 seconds, letting me know what you think of it and what I could do to make it better?” Start small. Start easy. Work up from there.

To be fair, I’m not really suggesting you use that exact wording – although if you do, please let me know how you go! – but there are a few specific things in there.

  • Firstly, you’re acknowledging they’re busy and taking that away as an excuse for them to knock you back.
  • Secondly, you’re letting them know you’re not going to annoy the hell out of them which is some people’s greatest fear. Saying it up front helps diffuse this common objection as well (Again, a useful marketing principle).
  • And finally, you’re letting them know it’s just going to be an occasional and random thing so they don’t feel like they’re committing to something full-on and structured and time consuming. This way, you’re way more likely to get someone to say ‘yes’.

Mentor Golden Rule #3: Even the nicest people sometimes say ‘no’ for perfectly good reasons.

If at first you don’t succeed, at least try and get them to dob in another potential mentor. Don’t be discouraged, get them to suggest one of their friends instead. Asking them if they know anyone else you can ask is a surefire way to at least get a few other connections and possible mentors. As always, it’s a game of numbers. Ask enough people and eventually, someone, somewhere will say ‘yes’.

Mentor Golden Rule #4: You’re not marrying them so you don’t have to limit yourself to one mentor.

Take whatever mentor you can, and don’t necessarily stop at one – the more mentors the merrier. You’re allowed to be unfaithful to your mentor by having more than one, and you’re also allowed to trade up over time. Your ultimate goal is to have the most insanely talented, connected and generous mentor ever. On day one, you take whoever you can. Over time, you continue to look for people who can be even more help. They’re all connections. They’re all sources of information and, importantly, inside information a lot of the times.

Mentor Golden Rule #5: Be grateful. Small gestures go a long way.

Finally, never ask too much of your mentor and always show your gratitude. Don’t bombard your mentor with a million emails a day. And while it may sound obvious, a little bit of appreciation can go a long way. I once had someone drop me off a chocolate easter bunny and a can of energy drink as a ‘thank you’. I’m assuming it cost a grand total of about $5 all up. But you know what? That person, (who now has a job at Clemenger BBDO by the way), is someone I’d gladly help again should they ever need it. $5 very well spent.

Finding a mentor isn’t necessarily easy, but it is worthwhile. And if you manage to snag someone who is well connected, it could just be your fastest way into your next job