Woman and man talkingAre you interested in working with a mentor but not sure how to ask someone? In recognition of National Mentoring Month, today we share some tips on how to find and ask the right person to be your mentor.

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Access to Employment Support Services for Social Security Disability Beneficiaries Who Want to Work
 
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Finding the Right Mentor

Jan 8, 2019

Woman and man talkingIn the past, we've written about the importance of mentoring — how having a mentor can help you reach your career goals. A good mentor guides and advises based on their own experience and learned wisdom so it's important to choose a mentor carefully. Today, we're answering some questions about how to choose the right person and ask them to be your mentor.

Why do I want a mentor?

Knowing what you're trying to accomplish by working with a mentor and what kind of help you think you need may help you find the right person. For example, are you interested in finding work in a new industry or are you already employed and looking to move up in your current company? Do you want in-depth career advice or is there a particular problem you need help solving? Only when you are clear about what you need, is it time to begin looking for a person who can help with that specific need.

Who is the right person?

Take a look at your current network, including your family, friends and people you may know from previous work or volunteer experience. Is there someone who has the type of experience or skill that matches your goal? Maybe they have the kind of position in their company that you would like to have.

 It's often easier to work with a mentor you can meet with in person rather than online, so first check your existing contacts to find a mentor in your community. However, if you don't know someone personally, try researching professional or trade associations or companies in your field of interest. Then identify a few individuals and look at their websites or LinkedIn pages to get an idea of whether their experience might be a match for you. Whether it's an acquaintance or a stranger, you won't go wrong if, when you contact them, you can speak knowledgeably about their work.

What do I say?

Once you know who you'd like to contact, keep in mind that you're asking for their time and attention. Be courteous and specific about why you think they'd be a good mentor for you and what it is you're hoping to accomplish through the mentorship. Also, let them know how often you expect to contact them or meet with them and what each meeting would include. Consider suggesting that you would create an agenda, or outline of what you'd like to discuss during each meeting.

How do I make the contact?

If possible, start with a phone call or in-person meeting. You can simply ask for some of their time to discuss an issue or to get career advice. Inviting someone to join you for coffee or a brief meeting in their office is a professional way to begin a relationship. If the meeting goes well, asking them to be your mentor can then flow naturally. If it doesn't feel comfortable, you may want to find another mentor. Remember, a good mentor will be enthusiastic about and invested in your success.

If you don't already know the person, send a brief email that asks for a short amount of time (say, 15 minutes) and includes what you'd like to discuss and why you've chosen to ask them. This initial email is not the time to ask them to be your mentor. You should have some sort of relationship before asking for that kind of commitment.

Final thoughts

There's no one-size-fits-all type of mentoring. A person may have several mentors throughout their career. Some mentoring relationships are brief coaching sessions; others last for years. However, the one constant is that you'll get the most benefit from mentoring by committing the time, energy and effort to understand your own goals and to make the most of your mentor's counsel and time.

About Ticket to Work

Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to work. The Ticket program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.

Learn more

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

Learn more

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.