Connecting And Building A Mentor Relationship
February 12, 2014 12:00 AM   Subscribe

I am currently in my late twenties finishing my degree in Information Technology. I live in a large city. I'm a sociable person. My question is, not working in the professional environment, how could I find a professional mentor? How do you recommend someone build such a relationship? Any ideas? .... There are industry related conferences within the area which I sometimes attend. Professors seem like an option. But what steps should I take to form such a relationship? Is it something you would ask for explicitly?.... I'd just like to thank the community in advance for your feedback. It's been something I'd like to do, but due to uncertainty in how to go about it I haven't. Thanks!
posted by Nicholas Geary to Human Relations (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think 'mentoring' as a formal relationship in IT is something that happens that much and in any case, mentoring with someone older and more experienced isn't necessarily very useful -- you'll learn as much from your peers as from people who have been in it for 20 years in a lot of cases. Keep up with people from school and use facebook and linkedin, etc to network.
posted by empath at 12:12 AM on February 12, 2014

Which isn't to say that you shouldn't try to talk to people who have been in IT for a long time, but it's not as if there's a lot of people looking for random people to take under their wing. You just kind of have to use your personal network of friends and associates to reach out to people for advice.
posted by empath at 12:16 AM on February 12, 2014

Hi, As a senior Global Enterprise IT Management professional, let me try and provide some advice. Most IT professionals are friendly and want to share knowledge with others, especially those that ask for it.

If this was me, my first step would be to use LinkedIn to greet senior people in your chosen field and area to introduce yourself. Use the advanced search tools to narrow down your area and look at people that seem they might lead to some meaningful conversation etc. Write a short letter of introduction and ask to connect (hint - use the "we've done business together option and choose their current firm - no need to enter a email address to connect with them).

I wouldn't doubt that with a clear, short narrative that states what you are looking and trying to find venues to connect with other IT professionals you will get a pretty good response and a lot of good advice!

The other option is to use conferences, but most likely you will have a dedicated professional group in your city you can become a member of that will have a variety of events and meetups. This is a lot easier than relying on conferences etc. Take a google. For example in Norway we use The Norwegian Data Society as a base - it helps immensely with networking and also following trends.

If you would like further information just PM me. Depending on your area in the states, I might be able to help you connect some very experienced IT professionals.

Best of luck and good on you for wanting to expand your reach!
posted by Funmonkey1 at 1:01 AM on February 12, 2014

You're still in school? Ask your professors if they know anyone you could meet with to ask for advice on (X), or email a former professor and ask them if they have a moment to grab a coffee and discuss (y) problem you're working on.

My experience is the opposite of empath's; mentorship from more experienced developers is certainly a big thing in my circle.
posted by third word on a random page at 2:24 AM on February 12, 2014

I have been a mentor and have been mentored, both in formal mentoring programs and in informal arrangements. I recommend that you think about what you want from a mentor -- what is your professional development plan? Having these in hand will help you get beyond the "nice to meet you" stage.

You might find The Mentee's Guide to be helpful. I believe this is an updated version of a book I used when I was at Hewlett-Packard in their Accelerated Development Program, but I am not 100% sure as I am traveling and the book is back in my office :).
posted by elmay at 4:13 AM on February 12, 2014

What are you looking to get out of the relationship? Professors are often removed from the workplace so might not be what you want - look up all the relevant user groups (Linux User Groups are a good place to start) and start going to their meetings. It's a good way to start making contacts in the working world.
posted by Candleman at 7:48 AM on February 12, 2014

I agree that people like to help people who take the initiative to ask for help. You could probably pretty easily identity specific people who are working in certain jobs at certain companies that you think could potentially be knowledgeable mentors and you could send them a short email something like this:

Hello XXXXX,

I'm Nicholas Geary and I'm looking for a mentor to help guide me in my career. I'll be graduating with an IT degree from XXXXX soon and would greatly value some career guidance from an experienced IT professional. I was hoping that you or someone you know might be able to speak or meet with me from time to time to give me advice about ways to achieve specific goals and objectives.

Please don't take this email as a ruse for seeking a job. I know that it's extremely valuable to have a mentor and that is my sole purpose in contacting you.

Thank you kindly for taking time to consider my request.


Nicholas Geary
Tel: xxx-xxx-xxxx
posted by Dansaman at 9:02 AM on February 12, 2014

mentoring with someone older and more experienced isn't necessarily very useful -- you'll learn as much from your peers as from people who have been in it for 20 years in a lot of cases.

Nonsense. How many of your peers have been in IT for 20 years? Why would you expect any of them to have an informed perspective on being in IT for 20 years? Why wouldn't that perspective be valuable to someone who wants to make a career in IT?
posted by Good Brain at 10:19 AM on February 12, 2014

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