During a recent conversation with a friend I shared that I have never asked someone to “be my mentor”. The other person was surprised to hear that because I’ve always been fortunate to have great mentors in my life.

How did that happen to me? Here’s my case for NOT asking someone to “be your mentor”.

Marriage on a First Date (Usually) Doesn’t Work

Asking someone to “be your mentor” before you meet them or the first time that you meet them is like asking someone to marry you before or on the first date. It is a daunting request. There’s a lot of time and responsibility involved with “officially” being a mentor. The other person, on some level, even if it is just perceived responsibility, might feel “responsible” on some levels for your successes and failures based on their guidance. If they don’t know you and your work ethic they can’t take a chance on that. They also have to carve out at least one or two hours every month and possibly set aside time on the same days every month. Successful people are usually busy people and their time is valuable and finite.

They have a lot of people that they need to spend time with. Even with the best of intentions they often can’t commit  large chunks of time to you if you’re reaching out to them cold or you’ve only met them once. Rapport hasn’t been built yet at that stage of the relationship.

A Better Option

If you need mentorship and I’m suggesting that you don’t immediately ask someone to be your mentor, what do I suggest instead? Create mentoring experiences. Instead of asking someone to be your mentor ask them for 20 minutes of their time on a phone call, that’s it. That’s easy to commit to. There’s no ongoing commitment. Most successful people had a lot of help “on the way up” in their careers and, more often than not, they are glad to get the opportunity to give back in short chunks of time.

Those phone calls will create opportunities for you to get advice, support and connections from amazing people. You’ll get to learn from experts in the business fields that you’re interested in by asking them to share their life experiences on those phone calls. You’ll hear “yes” to THAT request more than you will if you ask for a formal mentoring relationship up front.

The good news is that…

Long Term Relationships Will Happen

When you have brief conversations mentoring relationships will happen organically without the added pressure of formal mentorship. if you don’t have great rapport, it was just a 20-minute call, no harm no foul. When you DO have great rapport the first call will probably go longer than 20 minutes and future calls, and probably meetings if you’re in the same geographical area, will happen. Those phone calls and meetings will turn into an ongoing relationship.

Without ever formally asking them to be your mentor.