How to Find a Technical Mentor Who Can Accelerate Your Career

How to Find a Technical Mentor Who Can Accelerate Your Career

You’re facing a challenging career decision and you’re not sure what to do.

You’d like to get some advice but have no one to turn to.

Ideally, you want to consult with someone who can offer an unbiased perspective. Someone who will act as a sounding board. Someone who has journeyed before you and who now has a wealth of knowledge to share.

What you’re looking for is a mentor.

But you don’t know who to approach. Plus, even if you had someone in mind, the idea of asking someone to mentor you feels awkward.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way.

In this article, you’ll learn the skills to help you find and establish a meaningful connection with a mentor who can propel you forward in your career.

Set Your Goals

To find a good mentor, you need to start by establishing your career goals (both short-term and long-term).

The more specific you get, the easier it will be to find the right mentor.

After all, a mentor can’t help you if they don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish.

Laying out well-defined, tangible goals will prove to a mentor that you have a clear direction and therefore are worth investing in.

So how do you go about establishing your goals?

Start by asking yourself these questions. (Don’t forget to write them down so you can share them with your mentor.)

● What is my dream job?
● Who are my role models (in terms of career)?
● Where do I want to be in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? What do I need to do in order to get there?
● What do I want to accomplish in my current role? How could I become even better at my job?

Pro Tip: As you go through this process of setting your goals, you may want to consider becoming a mentor to someone earlier in their career journey. You’ll get way more out of your own mentor because you understand what it takes to be a good mentee. And if it’s evident that you’re willing to invest in someone else, then a mentor may be more open to investing in you.

Spot Your Gaps

Now that you’ve jotted down your career goals, you’ll be able to spot the gaps in your experience, skillsets, and training.

This step is crucial because ideally you can find a mentor who helps you grow in these specific areas.

Here are some questions to consider:
● Is there anything that’s holding me back from succeeding or going after my goals?
● What are the gaps between where I am currently and where I want to go in my career?
● What areas do I need to grow in to achieve my goals?

At this point, it’s time to pinpoint precisely what you’re hoping to achieve from a mentor.

For example, you be experiencing conflict with members of your team. In that case, finding someone who knows about interpersonal relations is incredibly valuable.

Alternatively, you may be looking for someone who can teach you particular coding skills to take your technical skills to the next level.

Knowing the exact areas that you want help in will make it much easier to discern who to approach and initiate that conversation with your potential mentor.

Brainstorm Potential Mentors

Once you know what you’re looking for in a mentor, it’s time to consider who could fill the role.

Start by brainstorming a list of people who can help you overcome the gaps and goals you defined in the first two step.
A lot of times, you’ll be able to find a mentor among the people you already know.

Here are examples of people to consider:
● People you met through college or bootcamp. This could include professors, classmates, or members of an engineering alumni association.

● Previous colleagues or managers.

● Friends/Family members.

● Current colleagues or managers.

Note: If you go this route, make sure this person isn’t your only mentor. While they might help you gain certain technical skills or improve in aspects of your job, they won’t be a great resource if you’re looking for advice on career transitions or salary negotiation.

● Hiring managers who have interviewed you.

As you interview for different roles, you’ll often find that you connect well with certain hiring managers. Even if you don’t end up working at that company, it can be valuable to stay in touch with those individuals and glean knowledge from them.

It’s also worth expanding your current network to gain a wider pool of mentors to choose from.

Here are some ways to do that:
Join an engineering society. The bonus? A lot of these groups have mentorship programs.
Attend technical conferences or seminars. Make it your goal to meet at least one new person who could be a mentor.
Volunteer using your technical skills. You’re bound to meet other technologists with similar values as yourself.
Join technical Meetups. You’ll meet people who are passionate about the same programming languages and tech stacks as you are. Oftentimes, you’ll end up meeting speakers or leaders who would be great mentors.
Sign up for Lunchclub. This is an AI-powered platform that makes introductions for 1:1 video meetings to advance your career.
Explore social sites to find technical communities. Slack groups, Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit are just a few places to start. You can search terms that interest you (such as “backend developer” or “data science”) and peruse the groups. Once you find one that you like, be active! Ask questions. Comment on other people’s posts and answer questions. Before you know it, you’ll start to spot others who are active in the community and could fill the role of a mentor.
Follow thought leaders or influencers in the tech community. This could include event speakers, authors, podcast hosts, or podcast guests. Reaching out to these individuals might feel like a “stretch,” but you’d be surprised how willing they are to connect. More on that in step #5.

Pro Tip: Take your career level into consideration when identifying your career gaps. Alan Latimer, Chief Analytics Officer at Socially Determined shared this advice: “Early in my career, my mentors tended to be technical experts in the field. I sought out individuals with a high degree of technical acumen so that I could learn as much as possible. I really wanted to understand the nuances of the technical space beyond the “book” knowledge available.

As I have moved into leadership roles, I have looked for mentors who are leaders in and out of my field. I believe cross-discipline approaches give the best perspectives on being a successful leader.”

Create Your Hit List

At this point, you likely have a hefty list of potential mentors.

Now it’s time to pair the list down. We recommend picking your top 3-4 individuals.


One of the people you contact may not be able to commit to a mentorship role at this time. Besides, it’s ideal to have more than one mentor in your life (more on that in step #6).

If all of them say yes, great! But if one or two say no, you’ll still have options.

So how do you pair down this list and choose the ideal mentors?

You’ll need to do a little investigating to learn about each person’s career background and strengths. If you already know the person and see them regularly, you can simply strike up a conversation to get to know them better. If you don’t yet know this person, then you can learn a lot by looking at their LinkedIn profile, GitHub repos, technical portfolio, or professional website.

In general, you’ll want this person to be…
● Living proof that your goals are achievable.
● Capable of coaching you in the areas that you want to grow in.
● A good listener and teacher. Someone who is willing to be vulnerable and share their own story.
● Motivational. Someone who can keep you accountable and encourage you to go after your goals.

Pro Tip: A great mentor doesn’t have to be someone with years of experience in your dream job. In fact, startup engineering leader Frankie Nicoletti explains has found peer mentorship to be more beneficial at times: “Peer mentors may have a better understanding of your situation and may offer a more relaxed environment to bounce ideas around.”

Make the Ask

It’s time to prepare your request. This is often the intimidating part. But it doesn’t have to be.

Here are a few key tips to help you succeed.

First off, you need to start by considering to what degree you are connected to this person. Then follow the steps from there.

I’m already connected to this person.

If you already know the individual, it makes your job way easier.

You can simply reach out in whatever way feels most natural. If you see them at work every day, then you could ask if they’d grab coffee or lunch with you. If you only interact with them online, then you could ask to schedule a call or Zoom chat during lunchtime. Use your meeting to get to know them better and to share your career goals.

If the meeting goes well then you can express your interest in meeting with them more regularly.

Here are a few things you’ll want to mention when making your request:

● Your career goals (both short and long-term)
● What you’d like to gain from a mentor relationship
● Why you think they’d be able to help you achieve your goals
● How often you’d like to meet and how long you’d like the mentorship to last (4-6 months is usually a great timeframe since it’s long enough to establish a strong relationship, without being too long of a commitment).

This person is a complete stranger.

Alternatively, you may have come across someone online who you think would be a great mentor. If you’ve never met them, then you’ll need to put a little more time into crafting a message.

Start by researching the individual to see what the best way is to get in touch. Try to use a platform on which they are active. Email is a good place to start, but you might find that they are active on LinkedIn or Twitter. Just be conscious that most social media platforms are a place where people go for entertainment so you want to be careful in how your message comes across.

Try to find any shared interests that you have. They’ll be far more likely to respond if you share something in common. For example, you might be part of the same technical community, may have attended the same university, or might share common connections on LinkedIn. If you find something in common, then you’ll want to reference that in your message.

After that, it’s time to draft your message. Here’s what you’ll want to include:
● Who you are
● How you came across them
● Any commonalities
● Why you would like to meet with them
● Your specific ask (i.e. Would they be open to meeting for X minutes so you can ask some questions about Y topic)
● A few of the questions you’d like to ask

If they respond with a yes, then it’s time to schedule the meeting.

It’s best to prepare questions in advance for the first meeting. This is your time to glean information without either party feeling the pressure for the relationship to continue.

At worst, you can walk away after having an informative meeting. If you hit it off and want to continue meeting, then you could ask them to be your mentor.

Pro Tip: If the person you’re reaching out to is a well-known influencer, you’ll need to go above and beyond when making your request. This podcast tells you everything you need to know about how to get a famous influencer to become your mentor.

Have a mentor in mind? Go ahead and take the leap. You’ll likely be surprised by how willing most people are to connect.

Don’t Settle on Just One

As you go through this process, it’s ideal if you can line up multiple mentors. This group of mentors (also known as a personal board of directors) will provide advice and guidance as you make career decisions.

Alan Latimer, Chief Analytics Officer at Socially Determined shares, “I have heard that it takes a village to raise a child. I think the same applies to mentorship. I think you should seek out multiple mentors. Over time these different people will help challenge and push you with varied perspectives.”

Here are just a few of the benefits of having a group of mentors:
● You’ll gain knowledge on all sorts of topics and become a more well-rounded person. After all, you probably identified multiple things you want to learn when you walked through step #2. And it’s unlikely that just one person will have expertise in all of those areas.
● Instead of only hearing one person’s opinion, you’ll receive the benefit of having multiple perspectives on any given career question or issue.
● If one of your mentors gets busy and can’t keep meeting with you anymore, it’s not a big deal because they’re not your only advisor.

As your board of directors starts to take shape, this group will be your go-to-resource for ideas, advice, and inspiration as you move through your career journey.

Now Go Find that Mentor!

Imagine the next time you encounter a difficult career decision.

The kind of decision that makes you desperate for advice.

This time, you’ll actually have someone to turn to. Several people in fact. Each with their own skills, experience, and perspectives.

Rather than making a decision on your own, you talk with a few of those individuals to get their perspectives. And by the time you have to call the shots, you feel confident in your choice.

Pipe dream?

Far from it.

Start by spelling out your career goals, then walk through the above steps until you’ve built a relationship with several individuals.

You’ll never again have to face a big career decision alone.

Lauren Shetler

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