Finding a Mentor in Tech: How to Create Long-Lasting Professional Relationships
The tech industry is fast-paced and keeping up with the latest technology and best practices can be challenging. Mentors who are experienced in the field can help you determine the best ways to allocate your time for career development. Due to full days of work hours, rapidly changing projects, and sometimes lack of clear processes, burnout is common in tech. Mentors can help you reduce your burnout by reminding you to find a work/life balance, sharing personal stories, and recommending helpful strategies. With so many options available, it would be a shame not to explore different areas of tech to find the right fit for you. If you don’t like one area of tech that you were exposed to, don’t give up on the field entirely. Mentors can inform you about niches that you never heard about, helping you with research and decision-making.
To find a suitable mentor, consider someone who has achieved what you aspire to. This could be a person with your ideal job title, who works for a company you admire, or who has followed a career path that aligns with your goals. Keep in mind the lifestyle that you want to lead while pursuing your tech career. Look for clues that will indicate that this professional will understand your professional and personal goals. You will gain more tailored advice from someone who understands where you are coming from, took a similar path, and shares your values. Of course, there’s always what to gain from every person. Stay open-minded to accept advice from various perspectives. You’ll gather the nuggets you gleaned to make well-rounded informed decisions.
When asking someone to be your mentor, explain why you’re interested in working with them and share your background and goals. Include your availability and preferred modes of communication so that mentor can gauge if the scheduling is feasible for them. As a mentorship is a professional relationship, try your best to approach the request with collaboration and mutual respect. Remember to be confident, honest, and respectful. As people progress in their careers, they tend to reflect on the people that gave them good advice that helped them achieve their successes. What goes around comes around. Although successful people may appear intimidating, stop yourself from thinking, ‘Why would they want to talk to me?’ You’ll be surprised to learn that many successful people are happy to share their knowledge. They’ll make time for you because they’re excited to champion the next generation.
As in any relationship, it is crucial to be respectful of other people’s time. Mentors may be juggling busy schedules with multiple responsibilities, and their time is valuable. At the same time, don’t forget that they are excited to support and advocate for you. They are willing to carve out time for you to help you level up in your career. With this in mind, try to make the experience as seamless as possible. One way to limit back-and-forth is by offering a range of options for meeting times. Be considerate of your mentor’s schedule. Avoid being overly demanding or pushy when trying to schedule a meeting. Remember that your mentor is doing you a favor by sharing their time and expertise with you.
Once you’ve introduced yourself with an email, text, Slack message, or LinkedIn message, ask for a phone call, video call, or in-person meeting. Try to be as specific as possible about the type of mentoring relationship you’re looking for. Are you looking for career advice or accountability in your learning journey? How much time do you think it will take? How often would you like to have a conversation? Do you prefer a regular time slot or would you like to have your mentor’s phone number handy for when you have a question? Especially when considering a new course, event, or job, it’s great to get in touch with a mentor. Someone ahead of you in the game can bounce off your thoughts and offer valuable direction. Their vantage point can help you make better decisions.
For a successful mentor meeting, it’s important to prepare beforehand. Think about what you want to achieve and the specific topics you want advice on. Before the meeting, make a list of questions and send an agenda with any materials you want your mentor to review (i.e. resume, cover letter, project, LinkedIn, GitHub, HackerRank…). Get ready to be open and honest about your strengths, weaknesses, and challenges.
Exhibit your job-readiness with professional and respectful behaviors like being punctual, listening attentively, and asking thoughtful questions. Take notes to remember key points and follow up on action items. Taking notes shows that you are actively listening. Don’t be nervous about asking for a pause in the conversation to jot down notes. Rather than an interruption, note-taking is more likely to be viewed as genuine interest in the mentor’s message. You care enough about their words to want to remember them.
You never know how relationships can help you in the future. It’s always a good idea to make a good impression on everyone you meet. You never know who can connect you with job opportunities. Although people are happy to help others find jobs, they don’t want to ruin their existing relationships. Before a mentor recommends you as a candidate they may want to make sure that you are trustworthy. Every social media post, comment, text and email matters. Every message that the mentor sees from you will culminate in their image of you. Double check your word choice, grammar, and tone of voice before hitting send. It’s worth the extra second for the sake of preserving your reputation.
After you meet with your mentor, show appreciation for their time and attention. Express gratitude for their willingness to meet with you and provide guidance. Take the time to review their advice and follow through on any action steps they recommend. Remember that your mentor is investing their time in you, and showing your appreciation can go a long way in building a positive and productive relationship. Be open to feedback and constructive criticism, as this is an opportunity for growth and development. By showing appreciation and taking their advice seriously, you can develop a strong and lasting mentor-mentee relationship.