How To Find A Mentor As A College Student Or Recent Grad

Having a mentor has powerfully positive effects on your career. Getty

By Tracy Brower, PhD, Reprinted from Forbes

If you want to advance your career, expand your capabilities or just get advice, you can’t do better than finding a mentor, especially as a college student or recent grad. But a lot of people aren’t sure how to find a coach, and they are reluctant to ask for support….

Perhaps the most important part of finding a mentor is making the ask. Many college students and recent grads are reluctant to ask people to mentor them. But people are generally delighted to help—and many even find it flattering.

You can ask someone for a one-time coffee, of course, but connecting with someone multiple times can be especially helpful because you can establish rapport and continuity over time—asking for ongoing advice in your journey. [Note, MentorPRO provides “flash mentoring” and evidence-based mentor recruitment training that can help in this regard!]

When you request support, include a few elements in your communication.

  • First, be clear about why you’re asking the person—because you respect their career journey and value their experience or perspective, for example.
  • Second, let them know what kind of support you’d like—things like advice about finding your next role, ideas about how to develop your career or suggestions for networking.
  • Third, let them know how often and for how long you’d like to connect. Asking for their time on a monthly basis is a good rule of thumb, and you can ask that you meet regularly for about six to nine months. You may choose to continue meeting after that period, but it’s wise to have a time-bound expectation to start.

Manage the Interaction

How can you get the most out of a mentorship? It will be most successful when you’re intentional and when you take ownership for the interactions. Take the initiative to set up meetings and be prepared for each session with an update on where you are and questions you would like the mentor’s input on.

Ask about the mentor’s experiences and for specific advice. Be sure to ask not just for what worked for the mentor, but also where they may have been challenged or where they may have taken a turn with their career.

Interestingly, people said they especially appreciated when their mentors showed them specific examples of how to live a successful life (48% of people in the Gallup-Amazon poll), shared what not to do in life (43%) and guided them to select a good career path (49%).

Be Selective

When you’re seeking a mentor, consider people who can offer you the most and build a relationship which has key features. For example, the best mentors are people you trust to ask all kinds of questions and talk through how to best meet your interests and career goals. Find people who have a balance of great knowledge and expertise (experienced by 77% in the poll), but also those who are humble (experienced by 66%).

You’ll want to find someone who can help you believe in yourself (experienced by 65% of people) and who can give you a sense of belonging (61%).

It’s also especially meaningful to find a mentor who can empathize with you (experienced by 49% in the poll) and who has a level of career success which is realistic for you to achieve (68%). You can also consider reaching out to people who are similar to you. Fully 90% of people obtain mentoring from those who share their same race and 77% of people from those who share their gender.

Express Gratitude

Of course, always be gracious and appreciative of your mentor. They will be enthusiastic to support you, but be sure to express gratitude early and often in the relationship.

Build and Advance

Overall, you’ll get great benefit from reaching out and building a mentorship relationship. Ironically, when you can be vulnerable in asking for help and support, you’ll build your confidence. This is not just based on the content of what the mentor shares, but also through the process of reflecting on the advice you need and building a strong relationship with someone who has a greater level of experience.


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