If you’re seeking mentorship for your academic, job-specific, or professional career success, there are a few universal principles and practices to keep in mind. This site provides suggestions and tools to support you asking for, or providing effective mentorship.

Mentee-initiated. You can receive good mentorship if you define what you’re looking for in a mentor. Start by considering the areas of growth you’re seeking to develop, and the informal role you’d like your mentor to play. Be specific about what you’re looking for, and ask for their thoughts as well. Common examples are:

  • Guide-someone with experience in a particular leadership role,
  • Expert-someone who has knowledge and resources to support you,
  • Sponsor-someone to promote your career growth and give you exposure.
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Start Small. Ask for a brief conversation before launching into the formality of a mentor agreement. It could be to explore possible professional associations or networks, or a situation to discuss that they may have insights on to help you. If there’s a good connection, you can mutually explore connecting again, or setting up a couple of touch-bases for a period of time.

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Give Trust to Get Trust: No surprise, research affirms that mentoring works best when there is trust. Build a trusting relationship by respectfully clarifying when something is preferred to be kept private. Remember, the real value of mentorship is in the relationship experience. Show appreciation by sharing what in the conversation has been helpful, and why.

Not sure where to begin? Consider asking suggestions from your colleagues, supervisors, HR, professional associations, or fellow participants in a leadership program. Peer mentoring and group mentoring can be ways to pool ideas and experiences informally and easily. If you’re hesitant to ask someone for mentorship that you believe may be too busy, invite a friend or a couple of colleagues to ask for a brief group mentoring time. Perhaps you can pool resources and thank the mentor by offering lunch.

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